While UCLA stayed on course in the Pacific 10 basketball tournament, the always entertaining and sometimes confusing Reggie Miller saga took a strange new turn.
The Bruins earned the right to play California today by knocking off Arizona State, 99-83, Friday at Pauley Pavilion after Cal beat Oregon State, 64-57. Anything else for the Bruins would have been an upset larger than Walt Hazzard's suspenders.
At the same time, Miller continued an assault on the hoop by scoring 39 points, following last week's 36 against USC and 42 against Louisville.
Now comes the unexpected part: When Miller met with reporters after the game, he gave them the silent treatment. At least, it was about as close to silent as Reggie can get.
A brief transcript:
Question: Are you looking for your shot more?
Answer: It's tournament time.
Q: Are you playing harder now?
A: I always play hard.
Q: Are you more intense now?
A: No comment.
Pretty enlightening stuff, huh? This was not normal Reggie material. Until now, Miller has been the type of guy who, when you ask him what time it is, tells you how to build a watch.
All that seems over now. It even got so bad that when Miller was asked whether he thinks some Pac-10 coaches ought to reconsider and vote him the conference's Player of the Year, he didn't get a chance to talk.
Hey, jump right in, Walt.
"I'll answer that," Hazzard said. "I voted for Reggie Miller."
So what's going on? Miller wouldn't say, possibly in keeping with his new style, although he has told some people that he is upset that the print media is making him look bad with his many colorful quotes.
That's only a theory, and it was left, once again, for Hazzard to explain. "He just wants to keep focused on basketball, that's all," Hazzard said. "As long as he keeps playing like this, I'll fit him with a muzzle myself."
Miller, who kept his head down while taking questions, had to be coaxed into the interview room by Hazzard. However, Reggie had required no such encouragement to shoot. He personally stuck a fork in the Sun Devils and pronounced them done.
There were 20 shots lofted from Reggie Range, and 15 of them connected. He made 6 of 6 free throws, picked off 6 rebounds and was instrumental in a UCLA fast-break orgy that broke open the game.
The Bruins went on a 10-0 streak that inflated a 49-42 lead to 59-42 and turned the last 15 minutes into garbage time. UCLA's streak lasted only a minute, but it seemed shorter.
"It was like a dam broke," ASU Coach Steve Patterson said. "I don't know where to begin."
Begin with Jack Haley's three-point play on a fast-break dunk after an assist by Dave Immel, who then stole a pass.
Immel threw behind his back to Miller, who ended another fast break with another three-point play.
Then it was Immel's turn to score on a breakaway, and after Miller followed with a steal, Immel finished the streak with a fourth fast-break layup.
Anything else? Not really. UCLA gradually increased its lead to 26 points, 85-59, on Trevor Wilson's three-point play with 6:26 left, but by then, the game was long gone.
Arthur Thomas, Arizona State's bookend-sized guard, kept the Sun Devils within reason if not victory by risking his 5-9 body on drives that enabled him to score 15 of his 23 points in the second half.
But Arizona State Coach Steve Patterson knew he had lost the game once UCLA went crazy with its running game in that minute-long frenzy.
"It was like we were moving in slow motion," Patterson said. "Not many people do that to us. It's a helpless feeling when they are running down your throat like that."
In the first half, UCLA throats were pretty tight. Arizona State cut off the Bruin fast breaks and probably would have led at halftime were it not for a pair of important plays by Miller.
Haley scored on an inside move and UCLA regained the lead, 38-37. Miller pressured Alex Austin into a five-second violation, then Reggie finished the half with a three-point satellite shot from 26-feet away to make it 41-37.
"That shot was a bad omen," said Patterson, who was correct.
The Bruins got seven assists from Pooh Richardson, a combined 27 points from freshmen Wilson and Greg Foster and nice containment defense of the quick Sun Devil guards from Montel Hatcher.
Thomas, however, thinks a swift backcourt can hurt UCLA. "They can't guard quick guards," he said. "And I don't know if they can match up, size-for-size, with bigger teams inside. But they sure did a great job pressing us and gave us our problems."
Right now, though, the Bruins have enough problems of their own. They've got to beat Cal at 1 p.m. today (the game will not be televised locally) and they've got to do it by keeping a silent gunner. Neither one will be easy.
--Shooting was no problem for the Golden Bears, who advanced to their semifinal game with UCLA by eliminating a staggering Beaver team in their 64-57 victory.
"We've got 18 wins now and we feel good about what we've accomplished under trying circumstances," Cal Coach Lou Campanelli said.
The Golden Bears, who had three players in double figures, led by Kevin Johnson's 15 points, made 55.1% of their shots. Jon Wheeler had 14 points, and Bryant Walton had 13 for Cal.
As usual, shooting was a severe problem for the Beavers. Oregon State, which lost for the sixth consecutive time, shot 26.1% in the first half when the Beavers made only six field goals and did not score in the last 6:43.
The Beavers finished with 41.5% shooting, but they could never get closer than four points after trailing, 28-17, at halftime.
"We lost our shooting touch and we probably shot the ball as poorly as any Division I team in the nation," Oregon State Coach Ralph Miller said.