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Bruins Find Sweet Spot

Midwest Regional: Watson has 17 points, school-record 16 assists as UCLA dismantles Maryland, 105-70.


MINNEAPOLIS — The true impact of UCLA's 105-70 victory over Maryland Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament could not be measured in a third Sweet 16 berth in Steve Lavin's four years as coach, or in the sixth-seeded team crushing the third-seeded team in the Midwest Regional.

Nor could it be measured in Earl Watson's five three-pointers in six tries and 17 points and school-record 16 assists without a turnover.

It was found on a glossy piece of paper.

Gary Williams, the beleaguered Maryland coach, took it out of his jacket pocket a few minutes before 10 p.m. just outside his team's locker room somewhere deep inside the Metrodome. A page torn from the game program. The UCLA page, with the black-and-white team picture.

It will be the Terrapins' motivation next season, Williams said, the reminder of how things bottomed out in the spring. That piece of paper was folded up again and slipped into the left pants pocket, to be carried around in 2000-01, to games and practices.

"It'll be somewhere close," he said.

That's how dominating, how overwhelming, how historic UCLA was in its eighth consecutive victory. Enough to send the Bruins to Auburn Hills, Mich., next Thursday to play second-seeded Iowa State, enough to become like a tattoo for the losing program.

"I have a lot of pride," Williams said. "I don't like getting kicked. We got our butts kicked. I can take losing. I can't take losing like this."

"This" was falling behind by 16 points in the first half and 36 in the second, having all 12 UCLA players score, having the Bruins turn the game into a "How To" tape on getting behind the defense for alley-oop dunks. Or when they weren't doing the segment on three-point shooting, or when they weren't sharpening the defense for All-American forward Marcus Fizer and All-Big 12 guard Jamaal Tinsley Thursday.

JaRon Rush had three slams off Watson lobs in the first half alone, one with a spectacular reverse finish, and Jerome Moiso also got one from Watson. The Bruins torched the Terrapins in transition.

Watson had the five three-pointers, Jason Kapono had three and Rush and Rico Hines each had two. Moiso had 14 points on seven-of-eight shooting and nine rebounds in 27 minutes, and Dan Gadzuric had 13 points on five-of-six shooting and six rebounds in 21 minutes. The Bruins hammered the Terrapins in halfcourt sets.

The 14 three-pointers set a school record, bettering the 12 this season at Arizona and at Stanford. The 105 points marked the sixth-highest total in UCLA tournament history and tied the total in the Nov. 27 Iona game for the largest output of the season.

It would have been impressive enough against Ball State in the first round. Against the team that beat Duke and Kentucky and lost by eight at Temple, that was ranked 17th at the end of the regular season, it was nothing less than awesome.

"It was close to perfect," Kapono said.

That was the only thing that was close, then.

There were parts that made the second half and overtime at Stanford look decent. It was immediate, too, and came with little letup, the Bruins having jumped ahead 14-2, getting caught at 19-19, leading by only 34-31 with five minutes left, and then hitting the jets.

A 15-2 run to close the half offered the complete arsenal. Watson throwing lobs in perfect position. Gadzuric and Moiso working inside. Ray Young hitting a three-pointer to cap the burst. Inside, outside, and everything in between, if not beyond, some of Watson's lobs coming from halfcourt.

The first-half numbers were staggering--the Bruins shot 72.4%, had 17 assists against seven turnovers, and a 49-33 lead--and also just a warm-up.

The opening possession of the second half ended in a bad pass by Young and the second in a bad pass by Moiso, giving Maryland (25-10) at least a brief chance for a rally. Then even that glimmer of hope disappeared.

Watson hit a pull-up three-pointer from the right side the next time down, then another three-pointer from the right side.

Two possessions later--one of which had Watson on the receiving end of a lob for a dunk, from Kapono--Watson made a three-pointer from the left side.

And then a straightaway three-pointer.

It was 65-35. It was a party, lobs all over the place and players falling over themselves in celebration on the bench as 12th man Brandon Brooks scored and then as Sean Farnham scored in the closing seconds.

The kind of day that they'll remember forever. Maryland, too, as if there is a choice in the matter. That piece of paper says there isn't.


Game Breakdown

Most Points

UCLA: Earl Watson, 17

Maryland: Lonny Baxter, 22


Most Rebounds

UCLA: Jerome Moiso, 9

Maryland: Lonny Baxter, 10


Most Assists

UCLA: Earl Watson, 16

Maryland: Steve Blake, 6

By the Numbers

.724: UCLA's shooting percentage in the first half (21 of 29)

16: Assists by Earl Watson (UCLA record)

0: Turnovers by Watson

7-3: UCLA Coach Steve Lavin's record in NCAA tournament games

8: Games UCLA has won in a row

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