There is no joy in Duckville. Blair Rasmussen fouled out, and UCLA held off his Oregon Duck teammates. Today all the joy is in Westwood, where the Bruins are sitting in front of their TV sets, with their hearts atwitter.
Saturday night in McArthur Court, they ran up an 18-point, second-half lead, lost all but two points of it and hung on to beat the Ducks, 72-69, after Corey Gaines sank both halves of a one-and-one with :12 left.
The Bruins finish Walt Hazzard's rookie season at UCLA 16-12. They're 12-6 in the Pacific 10, which puts them one game out of first place, in a three-way tie for third with Oregon State and Arizona.
Before the season, NBC's Al McGuire said that if Hazzard matched last season's record, he should be coach of the year. Hazzard missed that by one game, too.
Today's the NCAA selection committee announces its 64 teams. The Bruins are hoping that their tough schedule--they lost games in December at DePaul, Memphis State, Brigham Young and St. John's-- will work for them. No one, however, expects the NCAA to take more than four Pac-10 teams and four (Washington, 22, Oregon State 22, Arizona 19, USC 19) have won more games than UCLA.
All indications are that if UCLA misses the NCAA and gets an NIT invitation, the Bruins will accept this time.
UCLA turned down the NIT last season, but UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis consulted the faculty committee on athletics Friday, "seeking guidance," he said.
Hazzard wouldn't discuss the NIT Saturday night, but he wasn't always that careful.
"All he (Hazzard) said before the game," said center Brad Wright, "was if we won, we'd go somewhere.
"I'd play in the NCAA, the NIT. Hey, I'd play in the CIF if they'd let us. I just want to keep playing."
First, they had to win Saturday night. This was the last home game for Oregon's seniors, also known locally as "Blair's last game." Blair Rasmussen, the Ducks' 7-foot center, was starting his 114th and last game for Oregon and coming off a string of seven 20-plus games in his last eight.
This time he shot 5 for 14 and was held to 14 points by Wright and a collapsing UCLA defense. He picked up his third foul in the first half and sat down with the Bruins ahead, 22-14. He picked up his fourth early in the second half and left with the Bruins ahead, 32-23.
UCLA then strafed the Ducks. They opened a 47-29 lead and Oregon's Don Monson had to put Rasmussen back in with 12-27 left.
The Ducks then launched a long rally of their own. The Bruins made free throws--16 of 18 of them in one stretch. Reggie Miller hit six in a row by himself, and quieted the Pit's fans, who had been chanting "Cheryl!" at him and standing behind the basket waving their arms. By the time Miller went to the free-throw line for the last time, they'd quit chanting.
With 1:05 left, the Bruins still led, 68-59, on two Nigel Miguel free throws. But the Ducks mounted a last charge. With :44 left, Mike Matheson scored on a short jumper and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Greg Trapp scored on the rebound, and it was 68-63.
Miguel, fouled, made one of two free throws. Charis Harper scored on a drive through the lane.
Harper picked off Kelvin Butler's in-bounds pass, was fouled and made two free throws. With :27 left, the Bruins led, 69-67.
At :24, Miguel was fouled intentionally. He missed two free throws.
At the other end, Harper missed a 12-footer on the baseline under pressure. Gaines rebounded and was tackled by Matheson. Gaines got up and made both his free throws.