Washington State had the basketball and 33 seconds in which to make up a one-point deficit. Harold Wright dribbled all around the perimeter, with Trevor Wilson shadowing him and waiting for him to make the pass to Brian Quinnett. But Wright worked the clock down to 2 seconds and took it to the basket himself for the short jump shot from the left of the key.
In and out.
Wilson grabbed the rebound, crashed to the floor and checked the scoreboard, to be sure time had run out. It had. The Bruins had escaped with a 56-55 victory Sunday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion before a crowd of 4,637.
Shaking his head, Wilson said: "When a guy gets a shot like that two feet from the basket and it's in and out, you just count your blessings and walk away with the victory."
The Bruins also walk off with a record of 18-7 overall, 12-4 in the Pacific 10 Conference. And no matter how much respect the Cougars gained with their effort, their record dropped to 8-17 overall, 3-13 in the Pac-10.
Once again, the Cougars dragged the Bruins into their own slow-down style, forced turnovers, frustrated UCLA on both ends of the court, and wound up with the nothing but the satisfaction of knowing that they gave the Bruins a good scare.
"You're not really a loser until you quit, and our guys never quit," Washington State Coach Kelvin Sampson said.
"I think we've been outmanned every night we go on the floor. But we were able to get the game at a pace where we have a chance to win. We've done that to UCLA twice this season, and we've lost by one point twice."
UCLA freshman Don MacLean, playing despite a 101-degree fever that came with the flu he has had for the last couple of days, led the team with 19 points. He also sprained his left ankle with 16:07 to play. He went to the locker room to get it re-taped, and he returned to finish the game.
Also coming through for the Bruins at the end was Charles Rochelin, a senior, who says he's aware that he's down to his last few games.
"I'm trying to play like I'm on fire. . . . I want to do anything I can so I can go out a winner."
Rochelin played some in the first half, but it was down the stretch that he, as UCLA Coach Jim Harrick put it, "stepped forward and bailed us out." In the final minutes, he made five of seven from the field to finish with a total of 12 points. And he had four blocked shots to finish with five.
Rochelin scored the most inspirational points of the game, slamming down the rebound of a shot that Kevin Walker had missed. That put the Bruins back within a point, at 45-44, and brought the crowd to life.
The Bruins had been playing catch up since the opening minutes, when the Cougars jumped to a 6-0 lead. They trailed by as much as seven points before finally getting the lead at the end of the first half. UCLA led, 30-29, at halftime.
But Washington State came right back to score on a three-pointer by Quinnett, who led the Cougars with 17 points. Rochelin answered with an 18-footer from the left side to put the Bruins back within a point. And, after a timeout, the Cougars demonstrated their ultimate patience when Brian Wright worked the clock all the way down to six seconds before hitting his three-pointer to make it 50-46.
The Bruins were scrambling.
At that point, Wilson was sitting on the bench with four fouls. He didn't come back in until just 3:45 remained.
The bench time contributed, but Wilson finished with a season low of four points. Point guard Pooh Richardson had a season low of five points.
Richardson got three of those five on a key three-pointer that tied the game, 52-52.
Herb Delaney had made one of two free throws to give Washington State a 53-52 lead when Mac- Lean made the 16-foot baseline jumper, the basket that Harrick said "put us over the top."
When Quinnett missed and Richardson got the rebound, Richardson close to slow it down and work it to Rochelin for the eight-footer that gave the Bruins a three-point margin that held up.
Harrick said: "Rochelin and MacLean weren't off today. We had a couple of other guys who were missing shots and we made some poor decision on breaks. We were in a hurry, instead of being quick. We made 19 turnovers ourselves against no pressure. We mishandled the ball and made some awful decisions."
But they got away with it when Wright's shot popped back out.
Sampson didn't second-guess the way the last 33 seconds were handled. As he saw it, how can a coach complain about a two-foot shot that gets inside the rim?
On the other hand, Harrick said, he would not, for himself, choose to go for the last shot. He'd rather leave himself some options in case the shot didn't drop.
"When you're shooting 29% from the field and you rely on one shot to win the game? That's something I wouldn't do."
But when he was asked how the shot looked to him when it went up, he smiled the smile of a man who had just received a reprieve and said: "It looked pretty good to me."
Sunday's victory was No. 350 for the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion, where they have a record of 350-36 (.906). . . . Washington State's 29.3% field goal percentage was the lowest by a UCLA opponent this season. The previous low was USC's 37.2%. . . . With two regular-season games left and an 18-7 record, UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said: "I've been saying all along that I thought 18-9 would make the NCAA tournament. But now we're getting greedy. Now we want to win 20. . . . I think our league should get four teams in the tournament. I think we have four quality teams. " . . . Don MacLean leads the team in scoring with 18.6 points a game; with 10 rebounds, MacLean has a total of 191, a varsity record for a freshman. . . . Forward Charles Rochelin's five blocked shots were a season high for him. . . . UCLA will play at Cal Thursday and will wrap up the regular season with a game against Arizona at Pauley Pavilion Saturday at 11:30 a.m.