Ray Young is on schedule to get his UCLA degree in one week. But a lesson learned from a book given to him by Coach Steve Lavin was worth a full load of classes.
It took a while for Young, a senior guard, to get around to reading, "Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment," by George Leonard, carrying it in his backpack for months before opening it.
But when Young became the Bruin point guard seven games ago after a season-ending injury to Cedric Bozeman, he figured the book might have some answers.
The central message is that consistency and improvement are achieved by repetitive behavior, no matter how boring it might get.
"It tells you that people get intoxicated by life's peaks and valleys, and that the secret to success is reaching a plateau and loving it," Young said. "Then the plateau gets you to a peak that becomes the next plateau."
Young helped take UCLA to the mountaintop Thursday, scoring the last nine points in regulation, including a three-point basket that forced overtime in the Bruins' victory over Arizona.
Young was one of five UCLA players in double figures, scoring 17 points. In his seven games at point guard, he is averaging 19.4 points.
"When I became point guard I started thinking more about involving my teammates, and it opened up my scoring," he said. "It's one of life's weird paradoxes."
T.J. Cummings and Andre Patterson were gesturing and shouting to the crowd during several Bruin timeouts, but it wasn't because mom and dad were in the stands.
Sitting behind the UCLA bench cheering madly were former Bruin players Rico Hines and Todd Ramasar.
"These guys are still like brothers to us," said Hines, who was a senior last season. "This was the biggest victory I can remember."
All six of his points and four of his six rebounds came down the stretch, when the Trojans were fending off surge after surge from the Cardinal.
Justin Davis, the Stanford player he was matched up against, fouled out with two minutes to play.
Last year, Dupree averaged 10.3 points and shot 73.7% in the tournament.
"I love Staples," he said. "It's the home of Shaq and Kobe and I like hanging here. We're renting it out for the weekend."
Hanging around too long can get a player in trouble, as Dupree found out when he was called for a technical foul for holding the rim after a dunk with 8:27 to play.
"I thought [Josh] Childress was under me," he said. "I felt him there, but I guess he wasn't there as long as I was."
The UCLA victory served to motivate the Trojans.
"It was a big inspiration," USC guard Robert Hutchinson said. "We were happy for those guys, another L.A. team having success."
Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen was thrilled that UCLA and USC advanced for two reasons: Attendance should spike today and the potential remains for a team with a losing record to gain the automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
"We should get great crowds with the local teams winning," he said. "And we could get as many as six teams in the [NCAA] tournament.
"These were fabulous games. I'm certainly excited."
Oregon Coach Ernie Kent has an inkling what the atmosphere might be like at Staples Center tonight when the Ducks meet the Bruins in a semifinal game.
"UCLA obviously played very, very well, and they're going to have an unbelievable crowd," he said.
"It's going to create an unbelievable environment for us to play in."