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UCLA Off on Right Foot; Tar Heels Next

Times Staff Writer

UCLA nearly got caught with its head in the calender. The basketball season arrived on schedule, even if the Bruins almost didn’t, but so what if they were a couple of days off?

The Bruins showed up just long enough to defeat Santa Clara, 76-62, Saturday night in the official opening game at UCLA.

Most everyone in the crowd of 9,762 at Pauley Pavilion realized the first game of the season really was being performed on schedule.

The problem, as it was explained later, is that the Bruins thought the first game would actually show up when North Carolina does Monday.

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So maybe what happened in Game 1 was predictable. Sloppy, to be sure, but also pretty predictable.

Ask Walt Hazzard what he liked about the game. It’s a short list.

“I was not satisfied with any aspect of how we played,” he said.

Hazzard said he was disappointed by the Bruins’ “total effort,” which seems to cover a lot of space on the court. That leaves much for the Bruins to do before the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels come calling Monday night, but it also explains something about the Bruins’ opener.

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“It looked like they had one foot headed toward Monday,” Hazzard said.

Reggie Miller, whose feet were headed in many directions, sometimes without being accompanied by the other, said he, for one, was distracted by playing the Broncos before the Tar Heels come tracking into Pauley.

“Truthfully, we were kind of concentrating on North Carolina,” Miller said. “And hopefully, we got all our bad junk out tonight.”

Miller led all scorers with 29 points and initiated the three-point stripe by dropping three long ones through the hoop in seven attempts.

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However, Miller seemed to be playing slightly out of control, which was underscored by his five turnovers and also a somewhat questionable shot selection.

“I would call it first-game jitters,” Miller said. “I might have been pressing a little bit, pressing too hard, but I’m just glad we’ve got this game out of our system.”

Yes, and without anyone getting maimed, although Miller looked like a prime candidate when he was undercut by Chris Lane on a driving dunk, hung on the rim briefly, then hit the floor hard with his elbows and upper body.

“He low-bridged me,” Miller said.

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Miller lay on the court for several seconds before popping back up, the signal for the first controversy of the season to throw off its warmups and spring into action.

As Miller stood near the Santa Clara bench, he appeared to exchange words with Bronco Coach Carroll Williams.

Said Williams: “He accused us of taking a cheap shot. He grabbed the rim and went off balance. All I did was tell him it was not intentional. Why would you want to hurt a great athlete?”

Miller said he did not speak with Williams and left that up to Hazzard.

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“I thought it was unneccessary,” Hazzard said. “I don’t think it was an intentional play, but I don’t think it should have happened. I’ve seen careers end that way. It’s an ugly play. There’s an unwritten rule that when a player goes that far (to the basket), you let him go. But he (Lane) didn’t mean it, I guess.”

In the beginning, the Bruins didn’t appear to be looking ahead to Monday at all. They jumped to a 9-2 lead in three minutes, but then couldn’t have handled the Broncos with a saddle and started to get beaten on the backboards.

A two-handed rebound dunk by freshman center Greg Foster put UCLA ahead, 23-18, and Pooh Richardson kept the Bruins running late in the half, but with two seconds left in the half, Mitch Burley’s 12-foot jumper on an inbounds play put Santa Clara within 34-31.

By then, Hazzard couldn’t have liked what he had seen. Although UCLA shot 58.3%, the Bruins were outrebounded, 20-15, and had allowed Santa Clara 13 offensive rebounds.

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Matt Wilgenbush, who led Santa Clara with 16 points, cut the Bruins’ lead to 40-37 early in the second half when he hit a shot jumper, the Bruins eventually wore down the Broncos and pushed farther ahead on consecutive fast-break layups by Miller and Richardson.

The Bruins were sometimes bothered when the Broncos changed from man-to-man defense to zones and then back but won going away when both Craig Jackson and Jack Haley did better inside.

Jackson finished with 11 rebounds, and Miller had 10. Haley made only one basket, but his 12-footer was an important one because it came after Santa Clara had gotten to within 61-55 with just over four minutes left.

Besides Miller, Richardson, who had 18 points, and Montel Hatcher, who had 11, were the only UCLA players in double figures.

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