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College Basketball | UCLA REPORT

Kapono Looks to Regain His Touch

January 02, 2003|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

It seems as if it were eons, but less than a month ago Jason Kapono was displaying the touch that has him on pace to rank No. 3 in career scoring at UCLA.

He made 12 of 19 shots against Long Beach State on Dec. 8, and the Bruins notched their first victory after opening with two losses.

Since then, there has been little but missed shots by Kapono and missteps by UCLA.

Going into tonight's Pacific 10 Conference opener at Washington, the Bruins (2-5) have lost three in a row. Kapono has shot poorly in each of those losses, making only 11 of 34, including three of 16 from three-point range.

Kapono, a senior forward, is playing with intensity. He is the Bruins' leading rebounder at 7.1 a game and averages a team-high 31 minutes. It's just that his shot isn't falling.

"I haven't been getting as many quality looks as usual, so I'm rushing the shots I do get," he said.

Kapono has spoken with his personal shooting coach, who hasn't noticed anything wrong with his form.

"I've just got to play free and confident," Kapono said. "We need to win first. If we win, I'll find a groove."

Winning wasn't a problem at Washington and Washington State last season. It was the only Pac-10 road swing the Bruins swept. But the team was playing well and the victories against the Huskies and Cougars came amid a nine-game winning streak.

There is no such momentum this season.

"It's been a snake-bit type of [season] so far," Coach Steve Lavin said. "I'm still positive. Most of the errors are correctable. If we clean them up, we can win."

Last season the Bruins' Pac-10 performance dissolved into a 7-7 finish after a 4-0 start against the Washington schools. This season, after a dismal nonconference performance, duplicating that 11-7 league record would be considered a strong comeback.

"We want to win the Pac-10, that's what we're still thinking about," forward Andre Patterson said. "It's a clean slate, 0-0. We have to be thinking of a championship."

*

TONIGHT

at Washington, 7

Site -- Bank of America Arena.

Radio -- KXTA (1150).

Records -- UCLA 2-5, Washington 5-4.

Update -- In Coach Lorenzo Romar's first season, Washington has won three in a row and five of six after opening with three losses. Romar is a former UCLA assistant. Forward Doug Wrenn, averaging 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds, is one of the top talents in the Pac-10. Guard Will Conroy is the Huskies' leading scorer at 15 points a game.

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