Wildcats blow 19-point lead in loss to Bruins

By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 16, 1996

LOS ANGELES - Same team, same call, same result.

This time, Joe McLean, fighting for an offensive rebound in the final seconds of a tie game, was called for a foul that sent UCLA's Kris Johnson to the line with one second left.

Johnson, a 68.6 percent free-throw shooter, swished the first shot, purposely missed the second and No. 18 UCLA (17-6 overall, 10-2 in the Pacific 10 Conference) escaped with a 76-75 win over No. 13 Arizona last night at Pauley Pavilion, cementing its hold on first place in the conference.

Does that scenario sound familiar? It should. On Feb. 1, A.J. Bramlett was called for a similar foul against Washington in Tucson with the score tied at 79 and 1.2 seconds left in overtime. Husky Jason Hartman hit the first and purposely missed the second and UW won 80-79.

While there were no sounds in the wake-like UA locker room following the game, there were no excuses either. Arizona (18-5, 7-4) led the game by as much as 19 points, a 35-16 lead in the first half.

"If we had done what we had to do it wouldn't have come down to that (the last-second call)," said Ben Davis, who finished with a career-high 25 points and 12 rebounds. In the first half alone, Davis was 7 of 7 from the field and 7 of 8 from the line for 21 points and eight rebounds.

Others were not so sure.

"I still hate to see that in our conference - the teams don't get a chance to decide the games," UA head coach Lute Olson said. "It upsets me a great deal. Three people were going for the ball. The kids should decide the game."

"It's bad for the tradition of the game. It should have been decided by the players," said point guard Reggie Geary, who finished with four points and eight assists.

The foul call ended what had been a wild finish to a game Arizona should have put away in the first half. Its 19-point lead dissipated when Toby Bailey hit two foul shots to give UCLA its first lead of the game, 73-71, with 2:39 left. The Wildcats found themselves behind 75-71 when Johnson hit two foul shots with 1:58 left.

Then Miles Simon began his own mini-comeback with two baskets to knot the score at 75 with :26 left. Then things really got interesting.

After using a timeout to set up their final shot, the Bruins were assessed a technical foul for having six men on the court. That sent Simon - a 75.3 percent free-throw shooter and who had been a hero just four days earlier with his 70-foot shot at the buzzer to beat Cincinnati - to the foul line for two shots.

His first attempt hit the front of the iron, his second the back. In other words, neither fell. Arizona regained possession because of the technical, and Geary brought the clock down to under 10 seconds before feeding the ball to Davis underneath. His shot missed, and McLean was whistled for the foul.

"I felt fine, nothing different," a despondent Simon said about his foul shots. "We just lost."

"I was surprised (at the call) but I'm glad they did call it. It was a foul. He had my arms," Johnson said. "It puts us back in the driver's seat in the conference."

The Bruins hold a one-game lead over Stanford and are 21/2 games ahead of Arizona with three weeks left in the conference race.

UCLA got back in the game by brutalizing Arizona on the boards. The Bruins had more offensive rebounds (17) than the Wildcats had on both ends (13). Arizona was outrebounded 39-23 for the game. The 23 rebounds matched a season low for Arizona, which logged 23 rebounds against Washington State.

"The area that continues to kill us - and I don't know at this point how to solve the problem - is on defensive boards," Olson said. "This has been a point of emphasis with us since we lost Joseph Blair. We need people to take on the responsibility of getting the basketball."