Just how extensive is UCLA forward Reggie Miller's range? Consider these inventive excerpts from Bruin play-by-play typist Bruce Tenet's official account of the March 3 game against Arizona: Miller 24-foot Golden Archer.... Miller bombs from deep left corner.... Miller dials long distance from 818 area code.... Miller scores from just west of Arizona.
Sure as shooting, Reggie, who finished that game with 29 points, can score from anywhere. But he'll have to do it at the NIT again this year. Arizona slapped a box-and-one defense on Miller in the second half, "holding" him to four buckets. UCLA lost its five-point lead and succumbed 88-76. With the win—in Pauley Pavilion, of all hallowed places, as former Bruin coach John Wooden looked on—the Wildcats clinched a tie for the Pac-10 title. "At the end we could smell it," said Wildcat guard Steve Kerr, a UCLA ball boy when he was in junior high. "Maybe now we'll get some respect."
Arizona starts two freshmen at forward and a 6'6" senior center who averaged 1.6 points per game last season. Kerr, the team's only returning starter, was moved from off-guard to point guard. On Saturday, this odd admixture of youth and transplanted talent won the Pac-10 title outright over Washington when the Huskies were upended by California in overtime 78-72. Cal had trailed by 19 at the half. The next day, the Golden Bears learned that they had not been invited to the NCAA tournament. The Huskies, whom California has beaten twice, were.
It was Alabama in an upset in the SEC. Not for the tournament title, of course. Kentucky won that, as expected, stemming the Tide 83-72 in the final, upping its record against 'Bama to 3-0 this season. The big surprise had come earlier, with the announcement that 'Bama coach Wimp Sanderson had edged the Wildcats' Eddie Sutton in the Knoxville News-Sentinel's annual poll for Southeastern Conference coach of the year. Sutton's team is 29-3 and a top seed in the NCAA tournament in this, his first year in Lexington. Sanderson's team is a respectable but undeniably distant 22-8. When word got out that Sanderson had voted for himself ( Sutton left his own name off his ballot), Wimp explained with some embarrassment that his sports information department had filled out his ballot. He said he wouldn't accept the award that Sutton deserved to win "in a landslide." Sutton, in turn, magnanimously refused the decoration. "Wimp won it fair and square," he said.
"It seems like every time we play them, we bring out the best in them," observed Memphis State forward Baskerville Holmes after the heavily favored Tigers' 73-71 struggle past Metro Conference rival Florida State. On Feb. 22 in Tallahassee, with then-No. 4 Memphis State at 23-2 and Florida State hobbling along at 1-8 in conference play, the Seminoles shocked their guests 82-80. Andre Turner, the Tigers' prolific guard, was neutralized in that upset but improved his fortunes in Friday's semifinal against the 'Noles; his 14-footer with 11 seconds to play won the game.
Louisville won 86-65 but was beaten—beaten on, that is—in the other semifinal. Cincinnati was never in it but made the Cardinals pay for victory by pummeling them with 38 personal fouls. "They could have fouled us easy," complained Louisville soph forward Herbert Crook, "but they were coming down hard." After smoothing their feathers overnight, the Cardinals beat Memphis State 88-79 in the final, their 11th straight win.
The Bradley Braves, so adept for so long at finding wins in the linings of their hats—13 of their 31 victories have been by four points or fewer—came up empty Wednesday night, dropping the Missouri Valley title game to Tulsa 74-58. That snuffed out the nation's longest winning streak—22 games. It had been business as usual for Bradley in the semis: The Braves trailed Illinois State for 39:55, at which point Bradley guard Hersey Hawkins's layup with (yawn) five seconds remaining won the game, 65-64. Braves coach Dick Versace attributed his team's loss to fatigue. Tulsa coach J.D. Barnett begged to differ. "They didn't look tired to me. I thought they played very well. But my kids were better."