The UCLA Bruins entered last Saturday's big game against Iowa unbeaten, untied and unimpressive. True, the Bruins were the second-ranked team in the country, but they had struggled on the road and had started slowly before winning their only home game. They had gotten their ranking on talent and potential, but they seemed in danger of losing it to an undefeated and 10th-ranked Hawkeye team that had been much more assertive in its six victories.
But as it happened, the peril was illusory. After falling behind 4-0 at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins got their superb fast break going and, for the first time this season, lived up to expectations, with a 75-66 victory. Or, to put it more succinctly, UCLA had a Fields Daye.
Scoring inside, outside and from the middle, forwards Kenny Fields, a 6'7" junior, and Darren Daye, a 6'8" senior, combined for 41 points and 20 rebounds. Their games are a mix of muscle and finesse: Fields has toned up his 225 pounds of baby fat since last season, while Daye has bench-pressed his weight from 185 pounds to 215 in the last two years. And they fill two lanes in what is sometimes a five-lane break on this Bruin track team.
That kind of versatility has lifted a huge burden off the considerable shoulders of sophomore Center Stuart Gray. By now everyone realizes that Gray isn't the seven-foot savior many thought he would be when he checked in last season, so his modest stats to date (8.0 points per game, 6.2 rebounds) don't look so bad when compared with Daye's (18.4 ppg, eight rebounds) and Fields's (16.4, nine). At least, they'll do as long as the Bruins are running.
On Saturday, Gray was only the second-best center on the floor. Iowa sophomore Greg Stokes had 27 points and nine rebounds, while Gray had four points and six rebounds in 22 minutes of play. UCLA Coach Larry Farmer often replaced Gray with a third guard (Michael Holton) or forward (Nigel Miguel).
Farmer has learned his lessons well after a grueling inaugural season that included NCAA probation for UCLA, an early slump and the inevitable pressure of walking in Wooden shoes. Farmer has now won 20 of his last 21 games, including five in a row this year. The defeat of Iowa was easily the season's most important and impressive.
Farmer would have people believe that he's not doing anything radically different from last season, when at one juncture UCLA lost an unprecedented three Pac-10 games in a row. (It once took John Wooden seven seasons to lose three conference games.) But Farmer's players say there is something different this year—namely, Farmer himself.
"You know, when we started out last season he wouldn't even let us dunk in practice," says senior Guard Rod Foster, who's averaging 14.6 points per game. "This year he doesn't care. Guys are having a ball." Gray, who'll never be mistaken for a ballet dancer, even performed a 180� stuff in UCLA's victory over Brigham Young in the opening game.
"I think Coach was a little uncertain about what he wanted to do last year," says junior Point Guard Ralph Jackson. "I think he took a little bit away from everybody's game. This year he's letting everybody play to their strength."
That strength is quickness. Foster is called the Rocket for good reason, and Jackson, Fields, Daye, Miguel and Holton get places in a hurry, too. "I haven't seen a quicker team," said Iowa Coach Lute Olson after the game, "and I don't want to."