After attempts in the Horizon, the Mid-South Coliseum, Madison Square Garden, the Marriott Center and Gill Coliseum that failed, usually by plenty, the Bruins found a foreign court they could call their own.
It was Arizona State’s University Activities Center, home of the Sun Devils, who were beaten, 64-61, by UCLA Thursday night in a game that was closer than the score indicated.
It wasn’t decided until four seconds remained when ASU’s Ron Singleton missed the second half of a one-and-one that would have tied the game. Reggie Miller rebounded the miss in traffic, was fouled, made two free throws, and now you can call them the Pac-10 Conference Contending Bruins.
In all, Miller scored 17 points and had a career-high nine rebounds. This was the same Reggie Miller who had 15 rebounds in the first nine games, when there was speculation that he, not Cheryl, was the least physical player in his family. Reggie has now taken 21 rebounds in the last three games, and is currently considered one of the best rebounders, pound-for-pound, that UCLA has ever had.
Of course, he only weighs 173 pounds.
“All the stuff I was getting before,” Reggie said later. “I was coming up with two, three rebounds a game. Sports Illustrated was saying I couldn’t outplay my sister. People were saying I wasn’t a complete player. Everybody was on my case. I just figured I’d better sit down and get some rebounds and get the press off my back.
“That’s what Cheryl told me to do. Sit down and concentrate on rebounding.”
It was UCLA’s third victory in a row and its first on the road under Coach Walt Hazzard. The Bruins are 3-1 in the conference, tied for second place, and 6-6 overall, a .500 team for the first time since they slipped beneath the waves at DePaul on the first of December.
In this victory--a little more grisly than triumphant--the Bruins had a seven-point lead early in the first half, but lost all of it by halftime, undone by the alternating Sun Devil defenses.
The Devils had a five-point lead midway through the second half, and had reserve guard Arthur Thomas on the free throw line, shooting the front end of a one-and-one, which he missed. On the Devils’ next possession, Thomas turned the ball over on a charge.
UCLA promptly scored eight points in a row and recaptured the lead, for good.
The Bruins led, 54-50, in the last two minutes when Hazzard went to his delay game. Moments later, they turned it over when Corey Gaines whistled a pass to Miller, who was standing next to the bench, listening to instructions from his coaches and never saw the ball.
The Bruins led, 56-50, when Nigel Miguel, the 39.8% free-throw shooter of a year ago, nailed both halves of a one-and-one with 1:28 left.
The Bruins then turned the ball over twice in a row against an ASU fullcourt press. They’d have made it three in a row, except Gaines, unable to find anyone open for an in-bounds pass, managed to get a timeout called.
The Bruins then appeared to put the game away, breaking the press with a maneuver Hazzard called in the huddle, bringing center Brad Wright up to receive the in-bounds pass. The first time the Bruins did it, the entire ASU defense went with Wright, and Miguel waltzed into the clear at the other end, took a pass and dunked. The next time the Bruins got the ball, Wright came up, Miller faked up, took off toward the other end, caught Gaines’ long pass and dunked.
Miller’s dunk made it 62-58 with 20 seconds left. With 11 left, though, ASU’s Bobby Thompson hit a 15-footer.
Wright then took the ball out of bounds and handed it to Singleton, who is a Sun Devil. Miguel fouled Singleton before he could get a shot off, so it was one and one.
“It slipped out of my hand,” Wright said. “As soon as it happened, it was like slow motion: This . . . did . . . not . . . happen.”
Oh yes, it did. Singleton, a junior guard from Dallas, was all set to be the hero. Besides the steal, he had hit two tough shots in the last 1:20 to bring the Devils back, and he was clearly not backing down under the pressure.
He stepped up to the line and knocked the first free throw right in. The second, which is supposed to be easier, the shooter having had a chance to get the feel and the distance, he bounced off the back of the rim, out to where Miller, in third position on the lane, rebounded it, just the way Cheryl had told him to do. The Bruins had won a game on the road, just the way Walt had told them to do.
Bruin Notes Reggie Miller, asked about the fans, who compared him loudly and unfavorably to sister Cheryl all night: “You always hear those things. ‘You can’t do this like your sister, you can’t do that.’ To tell you the truth, I like it. It fires me up. I’m glad about the situation I’m in, even if there are times when it hurts. Cheryl just got an award the other day. She gets lots of awards. Mine are coming slow. There are times when I say why not Reggie Smith or Reggie Jackson. Why do I have to be Reggie Miller?” . . . Brad Wright broke out his sky hook for the first time this season, went 0 for 4 with it. He was one for seven with three rebounds in the first half, rallied to finish with 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks . . . Craig Jackson became ill shortly after the pregame meal, and Walt Hazzard held him out.