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Matadors Stick It to Bruins

College basketball: Northridge defeats sloppy UCLA for first time, 78-74, and spoils home opener.

November 22, 2000|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Could this be? Could this really be? As Earl Watson shuffled off the Pauley Pavilion floor Tuesday night, that old Yogi Berra feeling flooded over him--deja vu, all over again.

It wasn't the loss itself that bugged Watson, a 78-74 defeat to a Cal State Northridge team the Bruins acknowledged as legitimate. It was the way the Bruins lost, with sloppy, inconsistent and apparently disinterested play against a team UCLA should have beaten. Absent the emotional spark of playing a ranked team such as Kansas or Kentucky, Watson said the 15th-ranked Bruins folded at the first sign of adversity.

"We hung our heads like we weren't even at home," Watson said. "They made a run that decided the game.

"I'm very concerned right now. This team has too much talent to play like this. It starts with every player on the team, with heart. Basketball games are won on heart, not on paper."

What happens when Jason Kapono fails to score? The Bruins (1-2) got the cold hard truth Tuesday, when Kapono scored six points. He did not score for the final 34 minutes and missed all six shots in the second half.

Meanwhile, Jeff Parris scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Matadors (2-0) to the biggest victory in school history, the first victory over a ranked team and the first in five games against the Bruins.

The Matadors won 20 games last season, and they're favored to win the Big Sky Conference this year, but the jubilation of the Northridge players and fans reflected the undeniably underdog status of the commuter school. The Bruins had won eight NCAA championships by the time San Fernando Valley State College changed its name to Cal State Northridge in 1972. After the game, the Northridge cheerleaders posed for a commemorative picture next to the scoreboard.

"This is a special moment," Matador Coach Bobby Braswell said. "These are special guys. I've always believed this program could do this. When I took this job, I was told I was committing professional suicide."

Northridge scored 10 points in the first three minutes of the second half to pull within 43-42. Surely the Matadors would take the lead. Or, surely the Bruins would pull away.

Neither happened, and neither team scored, for four ugly minutes. The Matadors simply missed a bunch of shots. The Bruins offered an assortment of miscues--T.J. Cummings threw a pass out of bounds, Kapono threw a pass out of bounds, Billy Knight stepped out of bounds, Matt Barnes had the ball stripped from him, Dan Gadzuric tried a baseline jumper and hit the side of the backboard.

The Matadors finally broke the mutual drought, and took the lead, on a jumper by Parris with 13:40 left. Northridge completed a 13-0 run and took a 51-43 lead before Gadzuric's slam stopped the bleeding.

But not for long. The chilly Kapono missed two open jumpers and committed a turnover as Northridge grabbed its largest lead at 59-48. At that point, neither Kapono nor Watson had scored in the second half.

Watson finished with 15 points but missed nine of 14 shots. He also committed seven turnovers, as did Barnes, and UCLA had 24 in all.

The Bruins started slowly in their home opener. The Matadors scored the first six points of the game, with Watson committing a charging foul and throwing a pass away while Brian Heinle scored on a power post move, John Burrell scored on a three-on-two break and Parris made a jumper.

The Bruins responded with a 14-0 run and added a 10-0 run later in the first half, though the Matadors would not be silenced so early.

UCLA had a 39-32 lead at halftime, with Northridge holding Kapono to two shots--he made both--and Watson committing five turnovers. In the Bruins' previous game, a 97-92 overtime victory over Kentucky, Watson played 43 minutes without a turnover.

Gadzuric, who did not start because of a mild case of flu, came off the bench midway through the 14-0 run and had a steal and four rebounds in his first minute. Kapono also made a pair of three-pointers during the run.

After Northridge tied the score, 16-16, Watson and Ray Young hit three-pointers during a 10-0 UCLA run.

The Bruins led by as many as 13 points during the first half, when they shot 52%.

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