Bruins Have the Answers : UCLA: Irish hang tough, but MacLean scores 30 as team improves to 6-0.
The UCLA-Notre Dame game Saturday at Pauley Pavilion followed a familiar storyline, with UCLA building a big lead, just as the Bruins had in their previous two games against the Irish.
But, unlike the last two, this one included a twist.
UCLA hung on to win.
The Bruins overcame 57.1% shooting by the Irish, easily the best by a UCLA opponent this season, and never lost the lead in the second half, running their record to 6-0 with a 99-91 victory before 12,518.
“I thought they answered everything that we gave them,” UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said of the Irish, who had won three in a row and five of six against the Bruins, “but we answered when they came at us, too.”
It was a departure from these teams’ last two meetings.
In an 86-84 loss to the Irish last season at South Bend, Ind., UCLA squandered a 14-point lead. And two seasons ago, in an 82-79 defeat at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins blew a 13-point lead.
Not this time.
But Notre Dame hung tight and appeared to have cut its deficit to 79-77 on a tip by reserve center Jon Ross with about six minutes left. Ross, though, was called for basket interference and the points were disallowed.
The Irish protested mildly, but the ball actually was tipped into the basket by UCLA’s Zan Mason, Mason admitted afterward.
“He came over my back, but it was my hand that tipped the ball,” said Mason, a sophomore who turned down a scholarship from Notre Dame to attend UCLA.
So, it was a bad call?
“You’re supposed to get those at home,” Mason said, smiling.
And, if you’re the eighth-ranked Bruins, you’re supposed to win at home against teams such as Notre Dame, which fell to 2-6 and has lost six games in a row for the first time since the 1971-72 season, the first of its 20 under Coach Digger Phelps.
But the rivalry being what it is, Notre Dame wouldn’t fold.
“I watched them on tape seven times and this was by far the best they’ve played,” Harrick said of the Irish, who have lost five games to teams ranked among the top 25, four to teams in the top 10--Arizona, Duke, Indiana and UCLA. “They really shot the ball awfully well.”
The eighth-ranked Bruins were “just OK,” Harrick said.
They made 54.3% of their shots, outrebounded the Irish, 33-26, and got a monster game from junior forward Don MacLean, who scored 30 points, making 10 of 14 shots, and had 10 rebounds and four assists.
MacLean outplayed Notre Dame’s highly regarded junior forward, LaPhonso Ellis, who nevertheless was outstanding, making all but one of his 10 shots and collecting 21 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots.
“Ellis is a big-time basketball player,” Harrick said, “but I’ll tell you something: Don MacLean’s not bad, either.”
UCLA’s Tracy Murray had 18 points and nine rebounds, but made only eight of 19 shots, missing six of seven three-point attempts.
More impressive were freshman reserve guard Shon Tarver, who made seven of nine shots and had 16 points and three assists in 25 minutes, and forward Mitchell Butler, who scored 16 points in 20 minutes.
Tarver sparked a 9-0 run by the Bruins midway through the first half, scoring seven points in 33 seconds as UCLA increased its lead to 27-17. The Bruins never led by fewer than four the rest of the way, building their lead to 13 points twice in the second half.
“He ignited us,” Harrick said of Tarver, who increased his scoring average to 13 points. “He really shoots the ball well and, defensively, he’s quick. He’s got really long arms. He steals the ball and he’s very good going to the basket off the drive.”
Butler scored all 10 of his second-half points in the last 7 1/2 minutes.
“He got us moving and going and hustling,” Harrick said.
It was all too much for Notre Dame, which got 19 points and six assists from forward Daimon Sweet, 19 points and seven assists from guard Elmer Bennett and 19 points and six rebounds from reserve guard Kevin Ellery.
“We played extremely well,” Phelps said of the Irish, who played without starting guard Tim Singleton, out with a back injury. “I don’t think a lot of people felt that we’d hang tough for 40 minutes.”
UCLA had not won its first six games since the 1982-83 season. The Bruins, who play DePaul Saturday at Rosemont, Ill., haven’t won their first seven games since the 1974-75 season, when they won their first 12 en route to the NCAA championship in their last season under former Coach John Wooden. . . . Don MacLean has scored 30 or more points six times in 70 games at UCLA.