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UCLA FYI

Nikola Dragovic plays well, despite not feeling well

He contributes 12 points, including a big three-pointer, to Bruins' victory over Cal.

March 01, 2009|David Wharton

BERKELEY — The other UCLA players knew that Nikola Dragovic was truly sick when he begged off playing in the usual card game at the back of the team bus.

The junior forward came down with flu after shoot-around Friday and was looking doubtful to play in Saturday's key game against California.

"I felt really bad," he said. "I felt like throwing up the whole night."

Which made his 12 points -- including a key shot near the end -- and seven rebounds a big part of the Bruins' 72-68 victory over the Golden Bears.

Dragovic said he stayed in bed from about 4 p.m. Friday until almost noon Saturday, trying to eat toast with peanut butter.

"We were sending up ginger ales and water to him at 10 o'clock at night trying to calm down his stomach," Coach Ben Howland said.

His health improved to the point where he could start the 6 p.m. game, but Dragovic said he felt a little weak, especially after shooting an airball.

Then, with 6:40 left in the game, his three-pointer stretched the UCLA lead to six points at 59-53, a play that teammates called critical to the victory.

"I'm real proud of Nikola because he gutted it out," guard Darren Collison said. "We really needed him that game."

TV time

The presence of ESPN's "GameDay" crew made for some extracurricular activities at Haas Pavilion.

First, Bob Knight showed up in a red sweater -- not a good idea at the rival school of Stanford -- which led to the crowd chanting incessantly for him to take it off.

Then, during halftime, former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps joined two Cal cheerleaders in a rather spirited dance as the band played an old Earth, Wind & Fire tune.

Phelps drew a standing ovation.

The son

Cal center Jordan Wilkes -- the son of former UCLA All-American Jamaal Wilkes -- was honored before his final game as a Golden Bear.

A redshirt junior, the 7-footer is on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in social welfare and has elected to pursue his postgraduate studies rather than play another season of basketball.

Wilkes, averaging 5.1 points as a starter this season, finished with six points and four rebounds against the Bruins.

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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