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Cal rises to the occasion
Alexander Wolff
February 03, 1986
After 25 years and 52 games, the Bears finally won one from UCLA
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February 03, 1986

Cal Rises To The Occasion

After 25 years and 52 games, the Bears finally won one from UCLA

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The scene is a bit different these days along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, which was once the main drag of a decade. To be sure, you can find leaflets like REGGAE AGAINST APARTHEID and PUT THE PIGS ON TRIAL. But last Thursday, as Cal junior forward Jeff Huling strolled along, it was apparent that social causes weren't the avenue's only currency. Three different people told Huling he had better win on Saturday. "All I could say," Huling shrugs, "was I hope we do."

Basketball was Berkeley's cause of the moment on Saturday afternoon, when Cal took to the Harmon Arena barricades and whupped UCLA 75-67 to end the Streak. The fellow who types the official play-by-play rapped out an epitaph to a quarter-century of frustration—NOW WE CAN ALL DIE HAPPY—next to the final score. And Lou Campanelli, Cal's first-year coach, hardly knew what to do with all the bottles of champagne he had been sent by expectant fans. "I could start a distributorship," he said.

Before Saturday's game, Cal and UCLA had played 52 times since Feb. 24, 1961, and the Bruins had beaten the Golden Bears every which way. They had beaten them badly (115-71 in 1968). They had beaten them narrowly (58-56 in 1964). They had beaten them in overtime (three times) and by half time (many times) and time after time after time. All told, no two schools had put such a streak on the line at least twice a year within a major conference and seen it go on like this one. "It's like a snowball, rolling and gaining in size," said Mark McNamara, who played center at Cal for two seasons in the early '80s. "You end up wondering what it takes to stop it."

He can stop wondering now. For one thing, it took forward Dave Butler 10 rebounds and 10 for 13 shooting for Cal. For another, it took guard Chris Washington's sinking all six of his second-half shots and turning things around in six telling seconds down the stretch.

After trailing by nine points well into the second half, UCLA went ahead 62-60 with barely five minutes left. Most everyone recalled 1975, when Cal blew a seven-point lead to lose 51-47; and 1969, when the Bears were up by 12, only to fall 84-77 in overtime. "We'd wiped all that out of our minds," insisted Cal guard Kevin Johnson. "Today there was no stigma, no stain."

There was only Washington, darting along the baseline to flick in a layup and retreating downcourt in a mock complacent trot. And then, suddenly, he spun around to pick off a back-court pass intended for the Bruins' Pooh Richardson. Washington's easy dunk put the Bears up for good, 64-62. "I knew then," said Huling, who had six assists, "that we were going to win the game."

UCLA might have arrived at the same conclusion somewhat earlier. Five different Bruins drew at least three fouls during the first half, when Cal shot 23 free throws. Thus strapped, UCLA could hardly play aggressive defense. That the Bears shot more than twice as many free throws overall didn't escape the notice of Bruins coach Walt Hazzard, whose own foul shots had sealed that 58-56 game in '64. "I think marginal is the word [for some of the foul calls]," he said. "Marginal is mild."

If nothing else, the disparity in fouls testifies to the new life in hoary Harmon Gym, which is now officially Harmon Arena because Campanelli has decided that gyms are for high schools. The fans hooted the sacred UCLA song girls. They chanted "Cheryl!" at Reggie (She Ain't Heavy, She's My Sister) Miller whenever he erred. And they joined the Straw Hat Band in serenading Campanelli with choruses of Louie Louie. To lose 52 straight to one conference opponent is to lose 26 in a row at home. And there's no excuse for that, particularly when your own place is an antiquated bandbox with legitimate pit possibilities.

Then again, to be fair, there were a few excuses:

?The Pressure. For years, Cal's chances of making the NCAA tournament were zero, so the Bears' season always seemed to distill to two games. "If we're mediocre, playing UCLA is like the Big Game with Stanford in football," says Johnson. "But now it's just another game in the conference race."

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