Fans Can't Stand It as UCLA Delivers

Times Staff Writer

Ray Young was on his way to a career-high 30 points and UCLA was rolling to an 86-71 victory over Washington State on Thursday night. Exciting stuff in this dismal season.

So in the Pauley Pavilion student section, Eli Karon stood. Rather than join him, fellow Bruin students heckled and tossed peanut shells at his back.

Somebody complained to an usher that Karon was blocking his view. Moments later, the lone student inspired enough by a rare Bruin home victory to leave his seat was escorted to a walkway and admonished by a student affairs administrator.

Jason Gaulton was the next -- and last -- student to stand. Ushers promptly removed him as well. Campus police officers were summoned to whisk Karon and Gaulton from the arena.

UCLA (8-18, 5-12 in the Pacific 10 Conference) will be on the outside looking in at the conference tournament unless it defeats Washington in the regular-season finale Saturday.

A victory combined with other Pac-10 results could leave them as high as sixth.

Bruin players are hoping for a crowd larger than the 6,619 in attendance against Washington State. They hope the crowd will be vocal and supportive.

But anybody who stands might have to leave.

At many arenas -- California, Oregon, even Oregon State -- the entire student section stands. The entire game.

At UCLA, standing up is standing out. And apparently it is not tolerated.

"Our job is to stand," Karon said, incredulous at the apathy of his fellow students and at the treatment he received.

"That's why we're here."

UCLA administrators said that while standing is not expressly prohibited, basically majority rules. If one person is standing and there is a complaint, it's sit down or get out.

"That's just wrong," Bruin forward Andre Patterson said. "How do they want us to have home-court advantage? Let us have fun. Let the fans be real fans."

Maybe if the Bruins return to their winning ways next season, enough students will stand to make it the norm rather than the exception.

There are plans to make more lower-level seats available to students. Unless they behave like students, cheer wildly and get a little crazy, what's the point?

"All the other places we play the fans are hostile and mess with us," Patterson said. "We need that here."

Behind Young and fellow senior Jason Kapono, who scored 22 points, the Bruins improved to 4-10 at home and extended their record over Washington State in Los Angeles to 46-0.

Young and Patterson came out hot, combining for 17 points in the first six minutes. Washington State went more than five minutes without scoring after pulling within 29-25 with 7:20 left in the half. UCLA scored 11 points during the Cougar drought.

The 40-30 Bruin halftime lead was enough of a cushion. The Cougars pulled no closer than five in the second half when Kapono -- who had a career-high 44 points against Washington State in January -- scored 16.

"Saturday is a must win and we'll have to play better defense than we did tonight," Kapono said.

Much of the action had a rag-tag summer league quality, a chance for players to display one-on-one skills. No worries about following the instructions of coaches who are on the way out. No concerns about mixing in some defensive intensity.

But this is March, not July. Good teams are playing crisply, preparing to make serious runs in conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament.

It became obvious long ago that UCLA and Washington State are not good teams.

The Bruins, though, cling to the hope that they can absolve their litany of transgressions with a victory over Washington and a run in the conference tournament.

"We win Saturday and it's a new season," Young said. "Everybody is 0-0 in the conference tournament."

Can the Bruins get there?

Sit tight.

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