After his team beat California Thursday night to wrap up third place in the Pacific 10 Conference and possibly a berth in the NCAA basketball tournament, UCLA Coach Jim Harrick took a moment to consider what was at stake and what his team’s chances were today against top-ranked Arizona in the final game of the regular season.
The Bruins will play it, on national television, at Pauley Pavilion at 11:30 a.m. At stake is his team’s reputation and confidence level as they gear up for the Pac-10 tournament and the NCAA tournament.
The Bruins have some ground to make up after losing to the Wildcats by 38 points on the Arizona court a couple of weeks ago, a game made all the more embarrassing because, in it, Wildcat star Sean Elliott scored 35 points and broke the Pac-10 scoring record that had been held by UCLA’s Lew Alcindor.
“This is a chance to see what kind of character we have, see what kind of guts we have,” Harrick said. “They kind of jumped on us the last time, didn’t they?”
But Harrick doesn’t think Arizona is really 38 points better than UCLA. Cringing, he said, “That was one of the few times all season that we lost our poise.”
So this is a chance to look better on national TV and show, as Bruin forward Trevor Wilson put it, “That we’re not going to lay down and die because it’s Arizona.”
On the plus side for the Bruins is the home crowd, that will number more than 12,000. Also, Arizona had to travel last weekend to New Jersey to play Duke and the Wildcats will be making that not-so-easy trip back from Pullman, Wash., where they played Washington State Thursday night.
Still, Harrick had to admit: “Gaw--aw-awd, they’re good. They’re really good.”
That’s why they’re ranked No. 1 in the country and have a record of 23-3. That’s why they’ve already wrapped up the conference regular-season title with a record of 16-1.
“Maybe (Arizona) is destined for something,” Harrick said. “They’re so potent offensively. Not many teams can score points like they do. Oklahoma maybe.”
Today’s nationally televised game can be seen locally on Channel 4. The game also will be broadcast on KMPC (710). . . . UCLA beat Washington State, 56-55, Sunday. Arizona beat Washington State, 74-48, Thursday night.