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NCAA COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Old High School Pals Are Ready for Reunion

College basketball: Oklahoma State's Gottlieb, Pepperdine's Lalazarian face off after joining forces at Tustin and Notre Dame.

March 19, 2000|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Wherever Doug Gottlieb went, David Lalazarian followed. Whatever Gottlieb did, Lalazarian imitated.

Gottlieb was a fast-talking, crisp-passing point guard. Still is.

Lalazarian was a hard-rooting, rapid-shooting forward. Still is.

It worked for Tustin High, which went 28-3 in 1995-96 when Gottlieb was a senior and Lalazarian a junior. Both players went to Notre Dame and left after one season.

Their paths diverged thereafter but will cross today when Pepperdine faces Oklahoma State in a second-round East Regional game at HSBC Arena.

When not holding court with the media, Gottlieb is seeing the court like few other point guards. The 6-foot Oklahoma State senior is second in the nation with an 8.6 assist average and is ranked ninth on the all-time NCAA assist list with 919.

When not loudly exhorting his teammates, Lalazarian is providing a spark off the bench. The 6-7 Pepperdine junior is a key member of the Waves' seven-player rotation, averaging 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 19 minutes.

Regardless of the outcome, they will reflect on the game this summer when Lalazarian is an usher at Gottlieb's wedding.

"I never thought we would play Oklahoma State," Lalazarian said. "When I saw the draw, I realized it could happen. It is something both of us are looking forward to."

They talk on the phone and e-mail each other. Gottlieb is probably the only Cowboy who knows anything about the Waves. Lalazarian passed on a tidbit about Gottlieb to his teammates.

"David said he likes to talk a lot, so get ready for that," said Tezale Archie, Pepperdine's point guard.

Lalazarian takes most of what Gottlieb says to heart. "Doug was always helping me in high school," Lalazarian said. "He's a coach and a player at the same time. He's really smart."

The pair used to sneak into the Tustin gym late at night and play one-on-one.

"We weren't the type to go to parties, we just wanted to improve our game," Gottlieb said.

They could use another session. Both have struggled shooting recently.

Gottlieb isn't expected to score much and averages 6.3 points. But a point guard should make more than 44.2% of his free throws and more than 18.8% of his three-pointers. He missed four of six free throws and a layup in the Cowboys' first-round victory over Hofstra.

"I went to a sports psychologist, but it didn't help because I just got worse," he said.

Lalazarian missed his four shots in the Waves' victory over Indiana, missed his five shots in the West Coast Conference final against Gonzaga and missed his five shots in the semifinal against Santa Clara.

That's 0 for 14. That's a major slump.

"I know they haven't been falling but I'm going to keep shooting," Lalazarian said.

At Tustin, they were hardly the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight. Gottlieb averaged 19 points, Lalazarian nearly 25.

Gottlieb's game was well-rounded enough to earn a scholarship to Notre Dame. He started 23 games as a freshman, but left after pleading guilty to charges of stealing credit cards from three fellow students and racking up nearly $1,000 in charges.

He came home, attended Golden West College for one year and didn't play basketball. Gottlieb's father, Bob, a lifelong college coach, had served as an assistant under Eddie Sutton at Creighton.

Sutton, the coach at Oklahoma State, needed a point guard. Gottlieb needed a fresh start. Three years later, the Cowboys are making their last charge with Gottlieb in the saddle.

Lalazarian committed to Notre Dame believing he would join Gottlieb. He lasted only one year as well, leaving because he was homesick.

"I begged and pleaded for him to go to Notre Dame and I felt like I left him in the lurch," Gottlieb said.

No problem. Pepperdine, with a program on the rise and a campus close to home, became Lala land.

They each found their niche, but there is room for only one in the NCAA round of 16.

"Second-chance players like us appreciate the tournament the most and treat these games like our dying day," Gottlieb said. "We know the chance is so special."

*

Today's Game

Pepperdine (25-8) vs. Oklahoma State (25-6); 9 a.m., Ch. 2, at Buffalo, N.Y.

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