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NCAA COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Painful Day for Bruins

Women: First-round loss to George Washington ends careers for six UCLA seniors.

March 18, 2000|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — She sat at the table, seemingly dazed, when the pain began to register.

It was the pain of disappointment, of a career that had ended moments earlier.

And as she talked about it, tears welled in Maylana Martin's eyes.

UCLA had just lost to George Washington in the NCAA women's tournament, 79-72, and the heralded UCLA recruiting class of 2000 was out the door, just like that.

Martin, the 6-foot-3 All-American and her senior teammates, Janae Hubbard, Marie Philman, Erica Gomez, Takiyah Jackson and Carly Funicello, bade farewell to college basketball as the Bruins' closing rally fell short, with about four minutes left in Friday's first-round Mideast Regional game at Notre Dame.

"I guess I felt disbelief, disappointment," Martin said, her voice choking, when asked her reaction to the final seconds ticking away to her UCLA career. Then came the tears.

"It's just starting to dawn on me, that I'll never put on this jersey again," she said.

"I went to a great university for four years, I'll get my degree, I don't regret anything."

On Sunday, George Washington will face Notre Dame, an 87-61 winner over San Diego in Friday's second game before 5,021 at Joyce Center.

UCLA staged an unlikely closing rally, one with Martin on the bench with four fouls, but it fell short because the Bruins (18-11) had hurt themselves early with 17 first-half turnovers.

Stalwart guard Elisa Aguilar brought George Washington back together in the final minutes, after UCLA had closed to 64-62 with 5:25 left.

Martin, who bowed out with eight points and 12 rebounds, went out with four fouls at the 10:32 mark and the Colonials ahead, 58-47. When Coach Kathy Olivier put her back in, with 4:42 to go, George Washington--now 8-0 in NCAA first-round games--led 66-62.

Funicello then got a put-back to make it 66-64, but that's where the Bruin drive withered.

After Starr Jefferson made it 68-64 with two free throws, Aguilar struck.

UCLA's LaCresha Flannigan missed a wide-open fastbreak layup and Aguilar, a member of Spain's national team, made a three-pointer.

Then George Washington (26-5) took nearly a minute off the clock before Aguilar got to the free-throw line. With 1:43 left, she made two, then Marlo Egleston made another for a 74-67 lead with 1:08 to go.

Afterward, Olivier agreed that the game seemed like a microcosm of UCLA's season.

"Yeah, we were up and down tonight, just like the season," she said.

"I'm really sad that people didn't get to see our best basketball tonight. But this was a great group of women and I respect them a lot.

"They came here as a bunch of squirrelly little girls and left as women."

Before tearing up at the postgame news conference, Martin talked about major first-half lapses in UCLA's game.

"We weren't attacking on offense," she said. "We weren't getting any offensive rebounds, no second shots.

"If they just score half the time, they're going to have a lead."

Martin didn't help herself any, picking up her first foul 36 seconds into the game. George Washington had early leads of 15-6, 26-8 and 31-14. Aguilar had a game-high 23 points and Petra Dubovcova had 18. Hubbard led UCLA with 15. UCLA had only seven second-half turnovers.

Martin finished her career with 2,101 points, second only to Denise Curry on the Bruin list. Gomez, with three assists, finished with 697.

Now Olivier faces a major recruiting challenge in the off-season. UCLA signed no one in the early recruiting period and is scouring the junior college ranks for big inside players to bolster what is now an all-guard team.

She also must deal with rumors that both freshman Nicole Kaczmarski and sophomore Michelle Greco are considering transferring--both deny them--or that her job is in jeopardy. It isn't, according to UCLA senior women's administrator for athletics Betsy Stephenson.

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