In defeat, the
Bruins sounded a rare note of discord. "The right people are not
playing," said Lee, a senior who was a full-time player as a sophomore,
more of a token starter last year and now mainly a substitute for Curtis and
freshman Marques Johnson. "I think we were playing better when I was in the
lineup, but I don't make those decisions."
UCLA figured to
salve its hurt and pride the next afternoon against Dick Harter's Oregon Ducks,
who had been effectively submerged by USC 76-61 the night before. That game
Harter had proclaimed the most important for Oregon in his three years as
coach, and he had not slept afterward. "I was sick about it," he said.
"It seemed like a whole year was wasted."
coached Penn to a 53-3 record from 1969-71, came to Oregon with two ringing
vows: to introduce defense into the Pacific Eight and to beat UCLA. Defense
meant clinging man to man, elbows flying on rebounds, diving on loose balls and
holding firm in the path of driving opponents. There have been two concussions
in Oregon workouts. Before an earlier game with UCLA Assistant Coach Dick
Stewart said, "We've had great practices. Sixteen stitches, a few woozy
players. A good week." Wichita State Coach Harry Miller once remarked in
intimidated wonder, "They come at you like a squad of kamikazes," and
Harter adopted the term. In fact, kamikaze basketball, if one ignores the
self-destructive element, goes some way toward capturing Harter's near-Oriental
sense of shame at defeat, his code of honor that seems to load moral freight
onto the fragile cart of won-loss records. "Show me something in which
winning isn't important," he said one day, and occasioned the following
responses: music, walking in the woods, mixing a stew, making love.... But
these came from people who did not perceive that he was speaking of his own
life. Assistant Athletic Director Bill Landers says, " Dick Harter has an
almost psychotic lust for the ultimate victory."
There were 49
fouls called when UCLA beat Oregon 84-66 in L.A. the week before. The local
press called Oregon's defense "foolishly tenacious" and "Rung
Fu," and Wooden said twice as many fouls should have been called.
When Wooden did
not appear at a sportswriters' luncheon in Eugene last Friday because of a
prior commitment to autograph books at an Oregon State student bookstore,
Harter inquired which books he was signing—his own, the Officials' Guidebook or
the Bible? "I respect UCLA's talent," Harter said, "but have only
distaste for its behavior. Listen to the names Walton calls the man who's
playing him. Is it proper for a coach of Wooden's stature to verbally bait
UCLA, too, could
summon up unpleasant memories. A year ago at Eugene, when Walton was on the
floor, a spectator dashed out and kicked him. The Bruins won 72-61. "It was
the roughest game I've ever been in," said Wooden. "I can't recall
having won a game so handily and having such a bad taste in my mouth
afterward." Greg Lee said, "I'm not looking forward to playing up
there. Last year was the only time I ever was afraid on the court."
antecedents, the Pac-Eight Conference assigned to the Oregon game two
officials, Lou Soriano and Frank Buckiewicz, noted for their ability to handle
raucous crowds. UCLA quickly ran off to an 11-2 margin on soft-settling shots
by Keith Wilkes and close work by Walton and Forward Dave Meyers, but Oregon
began finding ways through the Bruin press, forcing three-on-two situations.
Since one of those two was always Walton, the Duck tactic was to settle for
15-foot jump shots from the side. Walton refused to come out and Oregon
sophomore Forward Bruce Coldren hit eight of nine from the field in the first
half. In one six-minute span he scored 14 points to UCLA's 11. Oregon got even
at 22-22, and ended the half ahead 32-26.
midway in the second half on three jumpers by Wilkes and one by Curtis to lead
43-42, but Oregon's Ron Lee hit from behind a screen by 6'8" Center Gerald
Willett, the only Oregonian among the Ducks, Walton committed a three-second
violation and Lee hit again. Walton's subsequent basket interference nullified
a UCLA field goal and Coldren came back with three more undisturbed jumpers to
the right of the key and Oregon had a 52-43 lead with 6:54 remaining. The
scoreboard, suspended from cables above the floor, actually rocked with the
banked one in from the side, Oregon controlled the ball nearly five minutes
with cross-court passes and sure ball handling by Lee and sophomore Mark
Barwig. After a series of foul shots, Willett missed in a one-and-one situation
to keep the margin at nine. Two layins by Walton made it 56-51 when time ran
out. Wooden got his players through the melee, and when the floor cleared after
an hour or so, it was slick with tears of deliverance.
considered the crisis UCLA now faces. "Our players have to come back with
assurance. I won't berate a team when they're down. I'm more apt to vent my
feelings after a victory than a loss. But I think it is just speculation to
hold that there has been a mystique that has carried us. We've always known we
could lose. You can't live without some kind of loss."