Stragglers Meet: USC Faces UCLA : Tonight's Game Could Be the Battle for Pac-10 Basement

Times Staff Writer

The 1945-46 season is certainly a forgettable one in the distinguished history of the UCLA basketball program.

John Wooden was still in Indiana, coaching at South Bend High School, and Walt Hazzard was only 3 years old.

So what's so special about 1946?

That season, the Bruins won only 6 games while losing 18. It was the last time, until now, that UCLA had a losing record going into the first meeting with USC.

The Bruins were dragging a 3-10 record with them in 1946. They stand at 5-8 for tonight's game with the Trojans at Pauley Pavilion.

USC is in worse shape, though. George Raveling's team has a 3-10 record and, perhaps, the grim prospect of finishing last in the Pacific 10 for the third straight season--unless UCLA slides under the Trojans.

As it is, the local schools are firmly planted in the lower portion of the second division, each with 1-3 league records, and only Washington, with an 0-3 record, prevents UCLA and USC from touching bottom.

Ready for another unimpressive statistic? Tonight's meeting is the first since the 1931-32 season that both schools brought non-winning records into the game. UCLA was 5-7 then, USC 7-7.

Well, there's still time for some adjustments, and the Bruins and Trojans want to use one another as a launching pad to get into the middle of the pack, at least.

UCLA is on a mini-roll with a one-game winning streak, even though it was a shaky 65-60 win over mediocre Oregon Sunday.

Ever optimistic, Raveling sincerely believed his team could beat the Oregon schools last week.

But the Trojans went 11 minutes 13 seconds without scoring in the second half against the Ducks, losing, 52-40, Thursday night.

USC fared better against Oregon State, losing 80-77 in overtime Saturday after making up a 17-point deficit and taking a 4-point lead with 2:13 to play in regulation time.

Center Chris Munk returned from a six-game academic suspension imposed by the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. and provided the Trojans with some needed muscle in the middle. He scored 15 points and grabbed 7 rebounds while playing 30 minutes.

He would have played longer, but Raveling admitted that he momentarily forgot that Munk was eligible. So he didn't get into the Oregon State game until 6:23 remained in the first half with his team trailing, 30-17.

So far, it has been a frustrating season for both UCLA and USC, more so for the Bruins, perhaps, because they're the defending Pac-10 champion and have a haunting heritage of excellence.

However, the Bruins don't even have a home-court advantage any more. UCLA has lost five of its eight games at Pauley Pavilion this season. By contrast, the Bruins lost only seven games at Pauley from 1966 through 1979.

John Wooden's dynasty was in full force, though, for most of that period.

Hazzard is not discouraged despite his team's record.

"With a little bit of luck we could be 3-1 in the conference instead of where we are now," he said. "But we have to make our luck with our effort.

"The team is going to give good performances the rest of this year. They are working hard in practice. The team is coming together. We are still defending Pac-10 champions. We have two cracks at defending it, the regular season and the postseason tournament."

Raveling said after an 88-62 loss to Stanford last month that he had misjudged the talent on his team and assumed the blame for his team's faltering start.

USC has since abandoned an up tempo, three-point shooting style for a more deliberate offense based on better shot selection.

"Ninety percent of our problems are mental and they are centered around three areas--concentration, confidence and commitment," Raveling said. "As for UCLA, its talent is among the top three teams in the league and I think Walt would agree with me. Like ourselves, a lot of their problems are mental."

In any event, if the longtime cross-town rivals don't solve their problems soon, they'll share occupancy of the league's basement.

Bruin-Trojan Notes Tonight's game begins at 8 and will be televised on cable by ESPN. It will also be broadcast by radio stations KMPC and KNX. . . . UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said that center Kelvin Butler will continue to start with forwards Kevin Walker and Charles Rochelin coming off the bench. Butler has replaced 7-foot center Greg Foster, who quit the team last week.

USC Coach George Raveling noted that his starting guards, Rich Grande and Brad Winslow, have shot a combined 2 for 23 from the field in the last three games. "That puts a tremendous burden on our inside game," he said. However, Raveling doesn't plan any changes in his starting lineup. "We need to stay with a consistent lineup," he said. So Grande and Winslow will join front line starters Chris Moore, Bob Erbst and Ronnie Coleman.

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