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5th Annual Wooden Classic: UCLA
Beats Oklahoma State 69-66--(Dec. 6, 1998)

On a day that saw UCLA's football dreams turn nightmarish, the basketball team took a clue and actually played some defense. And they did it for the entire game forcing 25 turnovers from Oklahoma State, and causing the key to OSU's offense to lose his cool and get himself ejected from the game.  And we're talking about Doug Gottlieb (6'-1" Jr. PG) who had 5 assists in 17 minutes of play in the first half, but who picked up a technical for getting a bit too argumentative with the refs right in the opening minutes, and who then shoved or ran into Baron Davis after the buzzer at the half, which caused the refs to assess another T, and that, as they say, was that.   Doug Gottlieb,  who was making his homecoming and who starred at Tustin High (along with David Lalazarian, who also attended Notre Dame with him two years ago before both transferred out) got to watch the second half from the locker room.

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As Baron Davis said after the game during the press conference, "He was talking to me throughout the half, trash talk.  And then he just gave me an elbow. Yeah, I flopped a bit, but it was really big to get him out of the game.  He had 5 assists in only 17 minutes.  He's the key to their offense because Adkins (Joe Adkins (6'-2" Jr. PG/SG) isn't really a point." And Baron was right; not about Adkins, but about Gottlieb.  Without him in the lineup, Oklahoma had the heart ripped out of its offense, and even though they managed to make a run at the end, UCLA wasn't going to let the same thing that happened to the football team happen to them.

"Baron ran up to me like he was going to run into me," Gottleib told reporters in the hallway after the game. "I did elbow him, but he flopped. With about eight minutes left before the second half, the ref came into the locker room and told me I couldn't leave. It was horrible."

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Coach Lavin started Jerome Moiso (6'-11' Fr. C/PF), Earl Watson (6'-0" So. PG), Dan Gadzuric (6'-10" Fr. C), Baron Davis (6'-2" So. SG/PG), and Ryan Bailey (6'-1" So. PG/SG).   Oklahoma State started Desmond Mason (6'-6" Jr. F), Doug Gottlieb (6'-1" Jr. PG), Alex Webber (6'-10" Jr. C), Pdrian Peterson (6'-4" Sr. G), and Joe Adkins (6'-2" Jr. SG/PG).

It was a strange starting line-up for UCLA, with three real point guards in at once, but it seemed to do the job as UCLA immediately jumped out to a 12-3 lead on the great shooting of Jerome Moiso who made the first basket of the game, a very pretty 6'- turn around jumper with an assist from Baron Davis.  When Lavin was asked about the starting lineup at the post-game press conference, he said, "I was up at 2:00 a.m. last night, and it just dawned on me.  Why not start Baron right away when the knee is already warmed up?  He goes through the pre-game warmups and gets the knee loose and normally we would sit him, but that means he's got to ride the bike just to keep it loose.  [The Bruins now bring a stationary bike to all the games for Baron to ride when he's not in the game, just to keep his knee warmed up].  So it just seemed to make sense," Lavin told the assembled writers.

The Cowboys came into this game ranked No. 11 in the country.  They won't be on Tuesday morning when the new rankings are published.   And UCLA was ranked No. 18 in the country.  They won't be either. We're not sure how much the game will improve the Bruins standings but it is certain to do that, and that will just increase the pressure for this young group.  This was really the first quality, big-time opponent the Bruins have had on their schedule, and it was not like beating Delaware State, a team that was picked to finish 8th by the coaches and writers who follow the MEAC.  Nope, this was big-time stuff.

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In the first half, it was an 8 point game at the buzzer when Gottlieb was assessed the technical, and OSU was coming back from a 14 point deficit at the midway mark of the first half.  OSU had never led, but Gottlieb and Adkins, the latter playing shooting guard, had managed to spark an 11 point run with about 5:45 in the first half, which brought the score to 34-31.  But even with Gottlieb in the game, OSU just couldn't close the gap, and the deficit continued to hover at 5, 6, 7 and then 8 at the halftime buzzer.

Gottlieb actually played very well notwithstanding his troubles. He is very strong, controlled, and even though he doesn't shoot much, he does drive and penetrate, and knows when to dish. He's got one of the strongest left hand dribbles and keeps the ball low and pushes the break well.  Too bad he had to once again disappoint the home town crowd who came out to see him.  But much of the slack for OSU was taken up in the second half by Adrian Peterson and Joe Adkins, notwithstanding Baron's commentary after the game.  Adkins probably did a better job than Gottlieb at getting the ball to the open man and scoring himself, and he finished the day with 18 onts, on 5 of 12 shooting from the field, and he went 4 for 9 from the three point line.   Peterson also shot 4 for 9 from three point range and was just slightly below Adkins average overall, shooting 5-13, but he did have 22 points, as he got to the line a lot more, shooting 8 for 9 on freethrows.  Desmond Mason also had a huge day, scoring 9 points but grabbing 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. 

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UCLA's defense showed just how good it was late in the game when Davis guard Baron Davis made two of the biggest plays of the day: With UCLA ahead, 67-63,  Adrian Peterson drove to the basket, but Davis stole the ball and went for a layup at the other end bringing the score back up to 69-63.  O the next possession, the Cowboys cut the lead back to three points, 69-66 on a three pointer by Petrerson from a Montonati assist, and they had another chance to win it or send the game to overtime, as Baron had a husge block on  Joe Adkins' 3-point attempt with at the buzzer. 

And every time it looked like UCLA would run away with the game, Peterson and Adkins let it fly from three point range, almost winning the game. Here's an amazing statistic:   Half of Oklahoma State's field goals in the game (9 of 18) were three pointers. Overall, Oklahoma shot 9-23 in the first half from the field (.391), and then improved that to .409 (9-22) in the second half.

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Matt Barkes blocking Adrian Peterson on the inbound
play

UCLA came out hard and fast, and with Gadzuric scoring  at 13:03 to go in the first half, UCLA led by a score of 19-6, and Oklahoma was having real troubles with UCLA's man-to-man help offense, and their zone press.  Matt Barnes was also playing tremendously well, especially  in the first half, and overall he didn't score a lot, only 1 for 3 from the field, but he had 2 assists and a steal. He was also greatly assisting Travis, shuttling in and out for him for most of the game, and Travis had a big game defensively as well as offensively.  Travis finished with 12 points on 6 for 11 shooting, and he also grabbed 5 boards, and had two steals.  Lavin and the other coaches just love to yell at him during the game, but he responds to it very well.

 

 

In fact Lavin loves to yell throughout the game, constantly saying stuff like "solid, solid, help d, see the ball, see the ball," and he's one of the most verbal coaches we know, in a very positive and helpful sense and in all the games we've seen him play, we've never heard him berate or say anything untoward to or about a player, and his methodology seems to be working.  He's getting these guys to respond in ways that even he didn't imagine. "Last year it was totally different, because we had so many huge egos. But these guys are just wonderful, and a real pleasure to coach," Lavin told us after the game.

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And if Dan Gadzuric was waiting for a time to make is real debut,  have his presence felt so to speak, then this game which was televised and played before 14,700 fans (so they said) was the place to do it.  Gadzuric  had 9 points, on 4 of 7 shooting and he had 5 steals, just incredible for a guy of his size, which points out just how mobile he is for a big man, and he had a lot of the NBA scouts sitting at the press tables drooling.   He scored quickly during the first half,   shooting 3 for 6 in the half, and taking only one more shot in the second half, and if there's only one drawback to him right now, it's that he's got to learn to maintain the same intensity level throughout an entire 40 minute game.

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Jerome Moiso (0) at the line, with Desmond Mason
(34) blocking out and Baron Davis (5) standing.
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Dan Gadzuric extends to cover Alex Webber on the perimeter

And if the pro scouts  were salivating over Dan, they were just foaming at the mouth about Jerome Moiso, who had, 13 points on 6 for 12 shooting and 7 rebounds in 27 minutes of play. Jerome did his usual stuff (yawn) hitting 15' jump shots, twisting and turning inside to make the layups, and in general just outplaying Mason in every category except rebounds.  He's very comfortable playing with his back to the basket (we disagree with those who say he can't post), but like just about 99% of all players, he's more comfortable facing the basket.  Which is not a bad thing, because there are really very few great post players out there.  Mark Madsen comes to mind, and if Dan Gadzuric sticks around for another few years he could be one too, along with Jarron and Jason Collins, Brian Scalabrine, and Eric Chenowith.

In the second half, UCLA again came out hard and fast, with Moiso leading the way for UCLA with the first basket, a leaner under the basket; then Gadzuric stole the ball from OSU, who without Gottlieb was forced to go to Adekins at the point.  Baron then provided the  most humorous moment of the game as he dove for the ball and managed to force a steal but lost his shoe in the process.  Rather than stop the action, he ran down the floor, holding his shoe in one hand, waving it in the air, trying to create a distraction, but then he realized he couldn't really run on it, and stopped after the ball transitioned back to UCLA, not to put the shoe on, but to try to stuff his foot into it while running and without tying the laces.  Actually, it could have been a disastrous thing for him to do, and he's lucky it was the shoe off the right foot, because even the slightest wrong step could spell disaster with his still healing left knee.  Holding onto his shoe, while trying to get into the defense on the OSU possession looked pretty funny, and frankly, we thought he'd use it as a weapon, but then had he done so, he might have joined Gottlieb in the locker room.

Baron and Earl Watson though get our "highlight of the game award" when he and Baron did an imitation of  the Earl to Jaron alley-oop duo in the second half.  As Baron brought the ball up court, Earl slipped behind his defender and then just slowly circled to the basket.  Baron made what looked like it was going to be a hard pass to Moiso, but it turned into a lob and there was Earl to receive it, and boom, slam-dunk.  Watson managed to be the leading scorer in the game for UCLA, hitting for 14 points and he played almost all the game, sitting out only 3 minutes total.  He shot 6 for 9 from the firld, and 2-4 from the line.  But he managed 6 assists and 1 steal, and only 3 turnovers.

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UCLA's Ray Young just after hitting a three to put UCLA up by
12 at 6:17 to play in the first half

Ray Young didn't play a lot, but when he did he made a huge contribution, coming in off the bench to spark a run just when OSU was again starting to close the gap, and he hit 2 for 5 from thei field, and made UCLA's only three pointer of the game, picking up 5 points in only 6 minutes of play, and he had one steal and one assist, and no turnovers, and three rebounds and all in all, we'd say he had the most production of any Bruin for the minutes he played. 

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Ryan Bailey did a lot of sitting during the early moments of
the second half

Ryan Bailey had a splendid first half, not getting much of anything on the line score except an assist, but he moved the ball well and ran the offense when Baron went out to rest the knee.  He played for only 11 minutes in the first half, but then didn't come back into the game until the last 11 minutes, sitting for 9 in the first part of the second half, prompting some to wonder what it was that he'd done wrong.  Actually we don't think it was anything, just the particular rotation Lavin was working on, and it looks like he'll settle on about 8 players during the year, and Bailey will probably be in the mix.  Overall he didn't score, but had 3 assists in 20 minutes of total game time.

JaRon Rush did his usual spectacular stuff, but didn't score a lot this time, and he was fairly foul-prone, picking up 4 personals in 23 minutes, and he didn't help his shooting percentage, shooting only 3 for 9 from the frield and 1 for 2 from the line.

UCLA overall shot .463 from the field, going 41 for 77 from the field, and only shot .125 from three point range, but then Coach Lavin will be the first to admit that this UCLA team is not a perimeter team at all, and they made only 1 of 8 three point attempts, taking only 1 in the entire second half.  And they've got to work on their free-throw shooting too, as they only went 6 for 13 overall (.462).

UCLA plays UNLV next Saturday, December 12, when they will also host recruit Carlos Boozer (6'-9" Sr. PF) from Douglas High in Juneau, Alaska, who is being heavily recruited by Duke and St. John's.  Too bad he couldn't have been there yesterday, because it was a great game.  

 

The Swish Award
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