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Bruins to Play Frustrated Trojans Tonight : USC, Winless in Pac-10, Catches UCLA After Its First Conference Loss

Times Staff Writer

Jim Harrick, UCLA basketball coach, scratched his head as he read a publicity release about tonight’s UCLA-USC game at the Sports Arena.

“Why do they call the Trojans the heartbreak kids?” Harrick asked.

Only because USC has lost 4 games by 4 points or fewer, including a 64-62 last-second defeat at Oregon last Saturday.

And those near misses have frustrated Trojan Coach George Raveling.

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“Our team reminds me of a kid in front of a candy store, looking in at all the candy he wants and no money to buy it,” Raveling said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with a team that has lost so many close games. There’s no one to blame but ourselves. We know what our problems are and that’s half the battle.

“If you look at the stat sheets of our games, there’s no logic to our losing. Like Mark Twain once said, ‘Do you want statistics or the facts?’ ”

Although wins have been scarce for the Trojans, who have lost 5 of their last 6 games, Raveling hasn’t lost faith.

“My friends in coaching and other friends have been calling me to cheer me up, but I’m not down,” he said. “I haven’t lost confidence in the team or myself.”

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USC is 7-7 overall and 0-3 in the Pacific 10. UCLA is 8-3 overall and 3-1 in the conference.

Coming off an 82-69 loss at Oregon State last Sunday, the Bruins hope to bounce back against the Trojans.

“Every time we play USC, they always seem to get motivated, regardless of what their record is,” said Trevor Wilson, the Bruins’ junior forward. “We have to really come out emotionally and mentally prepared for this game in order to stay in the race for the Pac-10 title.”

Are you taking Sports Cliches I this quarter, Trevor?

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“I’m a real politician,” Wilson said. “I don’t need to give them anything else.”

The Bruins have more depth than the Trojans.

Don MacLean, a 6-foot 10-inch forward, is the third-highest scoring freshman in the nation behind Anthony Bennett of Wisconsin Green Bay and Chris Jackson of Louisiana State. The Bruins’ leading scorer and rebounder, MacLean is averaging 21.5 points and 9 assists.

MacLean is surprised he has made an immediate impact on UCLA. “I had no expectations that I’d be scoring and rebounding as well as I have,” MacLean said. “I just wanted to come in and start. But it’s worked out a little better than I expected.”

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Raveling respects MacLean. “MacLean has surprised everyone, including himself, with the way he’s playing,” Raveling said. “The most impressive thing about him is his poise. It’s evident that his teammates and coaches have a lot of confidence in him because they want him to have the ball in critical situations.”

If the Trojans concentrate on stopping MacLean, things probably will open up for guard Pooh Richardson and Wilson. When Oregon held MacLean to 12 points with a box-and-one defense, Richardson scored 21 points and Wilson had 24 points in the Bruins’ 31-point victory over the Ducks last Thursday.

Bruin-Trojan Notes

Prime Ticket will televise tonight’s game live, starting at 8. . . . Anthony Pendleton and Ronnie Coleman are the Trojans’ top scorers. A 6-4 junior guard, Pendleton is averaging 17.1 points. Coleman, a 6-6 sophomore forward, averages 15.2 points. After making only 56.7% of his free throws, Coleman plans to start wearing contact lenses and goggles. . . . Pooh Richardson, UCLA’s senior point guard, is, statistically, the best 3-point shooter in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. and he ranks eighth in assists. Richardson has made 17 of 24 3-point shots (70.8%), and he’s averaging 7.8 assists a game.

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