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J.A. ADANDE

Matadors Stick It to Bruins

One-step-forward, two-back start already has the Bruins singing that 'not again' refrain.

November 22, 2000|J.A. ADANDE

Just in case you had thought otherwise, the answer is, no, this year won't be any different when it comes to UCLA basketball.

The Bruins will continue to move backward whenever it appears they've made progress. They'll continue to astound and accomplish the unthinkable--in both a positive and a negative sense.

Last year it was losing to Colorado State in the Pearl Harbor Classic less than a week after beating DePaul in what was supposed to be a statement game.

Tuesday night they lost to Cal State Northridge, 78-74, at Pauley Pavilion in the Bruins' first official game since their impressive start at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York.

They looked oh-so-ready for the big time in Manhattan when they fell to current No. 3 Kansas by one point in the opener (the type of game the NCAA tournament selection committee would consider a quality loss), then came back to beat Kentucky in overtime.

After the 15th-ranked Bruins acquitted themselves quite well against two of the most tradition-rich schools in college basketball, the Bruins lost to a team whose historical accomplishments officially began Tuesday night. This was Cal State Northridge's first victory over a ranked team.

As Steve Lavin asked the referees at one point during the game, "What the hell is going on?"

Anyone who's been watching UCLA these last few years knows. All too well. It's the same old thing. Just ask Earl Watson, the senior guard.

"When I see something like this, I think, 'Not again,' " Watson said. "It happened again.

"This is frustrating when you have to learn this way. But I've been through this before. I know what I have to do to clear this up before it gets worse."

How could they fall off like this? Lavin said that in one respect, the first two games were not all good.

"In New York, defensively, I was really concerned, because we were scoring close to 100 but giving up [almost] 100," Lavin said. "So that was still a concern. In fact I was pleased [Tuesday], I thought the first half was the best defensive effort we've had for 20 minutes. But we couldn't sustain.

"So that's a concern, sustaining the defense. Tonight we reverted back to some of the stretches last year, where we just were not valuing the ball, just making some very poor decisions."

There are poor decisions, like mixing plaids with stripes, and then there are outright bad ones, like the ones the Bruins made over and over.

They committed 15 turnovers in the first half, led by Watson with six. They committed nine in the second half, but their shooting fell from 52% to 39%.

They were showing all the symptoms of basketball anxiety. They tightened up on their shots and became over-eager on defense, hacking away. That meant the Matadors sometimes got trips to the free-throw line without even crossing halfcourt.

The Matadors, meanwhile, stayed cool even as they got within sight of this historic victory for their program.

After center Brian Heinle made a layup to put Northridge ahead, 46-43, with 13:14 left, he called to his teammates to get their attention, then held his hands out, palms down, as if to say "chill."

And the Matadors put on a textbook display of late-game management. They spread the floor and got the ball to the guys they wanted to have it: Jeff Parris and Heinle.

They were so patient while milking the clock that one time Marco McCain passed up a wide-open three-pointer--even after the Bruin defense gave him time to think about it. It paid off, when Markus Carr made a three-pointer just before the shot clock expired.

UCLA has to find a way to establish a consistent low-post threat. That means the Bruins need to get more out of Dan Gadzuric, which would require getting him on the court regularly in the first place. He missed practice Monday and didn't start in this game because he's been sick with flu.

Jason Kapono was off (two for eight from the field), and UCLA's top scorer from a year ago finished with only six points.

The Bruins couldn't go inside or knock down the mid-range jumpers against the Northridge zone, and they couldn't beat the Matadors to the hoop against the man-to-man.

"It's back to the drawing board," Lavin said.

In other words, a familiar place. At this point, there can't be much room left to write on it.

J.A. Adande can be reached at his e-mail address:

ja.adande@latimes.com

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Time of the CSUN

After four defeats, Cal State Northridge finally knocked off UCLA. All games have been played at Pauley Pavilion:

*--*

Season Result 1992-93 UCLA 80, Cal State Northridge 73 1994-95 UCLA 83, Cal State Northridge 60 1996-97 UCLA 95, Cal State Northridge 73 1998-99 UCLA 114, Cal State Northridge 97 2000-01 Cal State Northridge 78, UCLA 74

*--*

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