UCLA Warms to Task, 80-67 : UCLA: Bruins overcome chilly reception at Alaska Anchorage to defeat host Seawolves in Shootout tournament.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It is a fear that hounds every big-name basketball team that steps into a small-time, hometown arena in an early season tournament.

UCLA got away Saturday night, but not by much, finally beating Alaska Anchorage, 80-67, to reach the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout.

UCLA will play 18th-ranked Virginia for the title Monday at 9 p.m.

The 11th-ranked Bruins trailed by as many as six points in the first half, and led by only two at halftime.

Their first double-digit lead did not come until less than six minutes remained, when Gerald Madkins' strip-steal and layup made the score 66-55.

The Seawolves then cut their deficit to seven on back-to-back three-pointers, but UCLA's zone defense stiffened, and Don MacLean made six consecutive free throws for a 13-point lead with 1:42 remaining.

"We clutched up at the end, " said MacLean, who led UCLA with 27 points and 11 rebounds. "I thought we hunkered down and got the defense, Keith Owens blocked some shots, we crashed the boards."

It took almost all of that to beat the Seawolves.

"They certainly weren't intimidated," UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said.

The great traditions of a visit to the Great Alaska Shootout include: A dog-sledding expedition, a visit to a glacier, and--if a team is unlucky--a game against the host team, Alaska Anchorage.

It is not that the Seawolves are extraordinarily talented. They are a Division II team, and Saturday they became the first Division II team that UCLA has played since 1961, when the Bruins beat DePauw.

But for visiting Goliaths such as UCLA, there is little to be gained and much, much to be lost in a game against the Seawolves amid the shrill, howling, wolf-like cheers of their fans.

"The conditions were very difficult to say the least," Harrick said.

UCLA started slowly before a crowd of 7,947, and at halftime, the Bruins' lead was only 43-41.

But these fans were no strangers to upset. If Alaska Anchorage had beaten UCLA, it would not even have been the the Seawolves' biggest upset. They beat Michigan in December of 1988; the Wolverines went on to win the NCAA title, and were ranked No. 1 in the nation and unbeaten when they lost to Alaska Anchorage in the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City.

Among other Divison I teams that have fallen: Auburn, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas and Washington--22 victories in all.

The Seawolves' first half against UCLA was nip-and-tuck.

Alaska Anchorage led by as many as six points, UCLA by no more than three.

UCLA sought to go inside to MacLean, and did so with some success. MacLean had 16 points at halftime, and Madkins had 11. Madkins finished with 15.

But two Alaska players kept making offensive strikes at the Bruins, who looked strikingly unable to slow them.

Jeff Jones, a guard from Santa Cruz, kept pulling up for short jump shots. At halftime, he had 13 points--and three fouls. He finished with 13 points.

Jackie Johnson, a 6-4 forward from Honolulu, scored most of the Seawolves' baskets early. At halftime, he had 14--and two fouls. He finished with 24 points.

Alaska Anchorage became the second team in two nights to stay with UCLA for at least a half. UC Irvine, coming off a 5-23 season, was tied with UCLA at 77-77 early in the second half Friday night before losing, 134-101, as UCLA set a school scoring record.

Despite their enthusiasm, even the Seawolves' fans did not expect the game to be close.

"You could give me 30 points and I wouldn't take it," said one Alaska Anchorage fan. "You see what they did to the SCI?"

Presumably, he mistook UC Irvine for an imagined school named Southern California Irvine.

Notes

UCLA's opponent in the championship, 18th-ranked Virginia, has had to fend off upset bids in each of its first two games, beating Siena, 80-77, and South Carolina, 65-59. The Cavaliers' best players are junior forward Bryant Stith and senior point guard John Crotty. But two other players are not with the team. Matt Blundin, a 6-7 senior forward, was starting at quarterback for the Virginia football team Saturday, and guard Terry Kirby was starting at running back.

Joe Rhett, the South Carolina player who was forced to stop playing last season because of a heart problem and later had a pacemaker implanted, has returned to the court. He played in an official game for the first time Friday, and said he felt fine but was nervous. He scored 11 points in South Carolina's loss to Virginia Saturday. South Carolina Coach George Felton said that Rhett's heart ailment is not similar to the one that led to the death of Loyola Marymount's Hank Gathers.

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