In a basketball game that left the Pauley Pavilion crowd of 9,255 as breathless as the teams Thursday night, UCLA avoided disaster by defeating an unyielding Washington State team in double overtime, 80-77.
Only superb efforts in the second half by freshman point guard Jordan Farmar and senior role player Brian Morrison rescued the Bruins, who had been, for most of the game, totally lulled to sleep by the Cougars and Coach Dick Bennett's methodical offense.
Farmar had 17 of his 19 points in the second half and Morrison 13 of his 15 to shake the Bruins, who trailed by 15 points at halftime, from their slumber.
Thomas Kelati, the senior star from Washington State, who seems to play every position except center, scored 18 and forced the second overtime when he made a three-point shot at the buzzer.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday January 11, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Washington State basketball -- The Washington State men's basketball player shown guarding UCLA's Dijon Thompson in a Sports photo Friday was Thomas Kelati. He was identified in the caption as Brandon Burmeister, who plays for Washington.
This victory was not assured until 5.1 seconds remained in the second overtime, when Dijon Thompson sank a free throw that put the Bruins in front, 80-75. Even Kelati couldn't rescue the Cougars this time.
The game seemed wrapped up at about the same juncture of the first overtime, with the Bruins leading by three points and 7-footer Ryan Hollins going to the free-throw line for two shots.
He missed the first badly, though, and when the second just rolled off the rim and was rebounded by Washington State, the Cougars still had a chance. And when UCLA didn't get back quickly enough, the ball went to Kelati, who tied it up with a fairly open shot -- especially in that situation.
UCLA (8-3, 2-1 in Pacific 10 Conference), facing a team that prides itself on making an opponent kill itself just to score more than 50 points, didn't even get to double figures until 6:50 remained in the first half. Washington State led at that point, 23-11, and it wouldn't get much prettier for the Bruins for a while.
At the half, it was 36-21, as UCLA shot only 30.8% from the field, and as late as midway through the second half, it was still Washington State 51, UCLA 36.
But then, picking up after Morrison's mini-run of seven points in less than 1:30 early in the half, Farmar began to control the game from his point guard position. Working off high picks from Hollins or Dijon Thompson, he made one right decision after another.
"We built the intensity in the second half," Farmar said, "and we made better decisions. That was how we made it turn."
Still, the Bruins didn't catch the Cougars until 1:26 left in regulation, , when Hollins made a free throw to tie it, 59-59. And, finally, the Bruins took the lead for the first time in the game, with 31 seconds left, at 61-59, when Thomson put a rebound back up and in.
"I couldn't be prouder of this team," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said afterward. "It took mental toughness and character to come back in a game like this. Even when we missed those free throws in the end of the first overtime, we didn't quit, we didn't back down."
Had UCLA lost, it would have been the second consecutive victory by Washington State here. Its victory last season, in Bennett's first as coach, was the first by the Cougars in Los Angeles.
But a frantic 41-26 second-half effort by the Bruins, plus 18-15 in the two overtimes avoided that repeat against the Cougars (6-6, 1-2).
"Everyone got their money's worth tonight," Howland said.