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February 21, 2003 Columns No Comments




The Morning Dish – Friday, February 21, 2003

by Jon Gonzalez


By the time it was all said and done, there were fans streamed across the hardwood at Pauley Pavilion and UCLA players with grins the size of watermelon slices. The scene in Westwood Thursday night was reminiscent of past Bruin moments that included the likes of Alcindor, Walton and Wooden. But alas, it was not a victory that meant a Pac-10 title or an NCAA championship. It was merely a win over the University of California at Berkley, the number 19 team in the country.

It has been that kind of season for UCLA, where wins against anyone have been hard to come by. But for the first time in Pac-10 play this season, the Bru Crew finally won at home, against a top 25 team no less.

Behind Dijon Thompson’s 20 points, two of which came with six seconds left and the Bruins down by one, UCLA clipped No. 19 Cal 76-75 in OT. The win snapped a 10 game Bruin losing streak and puts UCLA back into the number eight spot in the Pac-10. Just like in the NBA playoffs, only the top eight seeds advance in the Pac-10 tourney, and just like their LA brethren the Lakers, the Bruins are fighting for the eighth seed.

Cal (18-5, 11-3) had a chance to win after Thompson’s 15 footer, but Amit Tamir missed an open shot and UCLA (6-16, 3-10) garnered the rebound and a much-needed victory. Not the type of victory that will save coach Steve Lavin’s job, he’ll need a Pac-10 tourney title and a miracle for that, but a win that will get the monkey off of UCLA’s back at least for a couple of days.

The game went into overtime after Tamir hit a three pointer to put Cal up 72-70. UCLA came back down the court and tied the score with 32 seconds left after T.J. Cummings scored after rebounding a missed three pointer by Jason Kapono. The Bruins had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Kapono could not hit a desperation three pointer.

Brian Wethers scored a game-high 21 points for Cal, who had its four game winning streak snapped. Joe Shipp added 18 points for the Golden Bears.

After the game, Bruin hero Thompson declined to talk to the media, staying stringent to his boycott of the press. Unbelievable that a star the size of Thompson could resist the temptation of talking to the media. What a travesty it is, not only to the media, but to all of Dijon’s adoring fans who don’t get a chance to hear Thompson’s melodious voice. Anyway, Thompson and the Bruins next take on Stanford while Cal matches up with USC.

Side Dishes

Golden Eagles Get Back on Track: Five days after losing for the first time at home in 28 games against Louisville, No.10 Marquette (19-4, 10-2) got back on track with a 75-67 win over Charlotte (10-13, 5-6) on Thursday night. Dwyane Wade scored a team-high 21 points and Robert Jackson added 15 as the Golden Eagles took a half game lead over Louisville in the American Division of Conference-USA. Charlotte trailed at halftime, thanks in part to a 28-3 rebounding deficit. But the 49ers got back into the game after grabbing 16 second-half boards. The improvement in rebounding was not enough for the Niners to avoid dropping to below .500 in league play. Charlotte guard Demon Brown scored a game-high 22 points.

Wake Finally Wins in Atlanta: For the first time since the 99-00 season, No. 13 Wake Forest beat Georgia Tech at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Demon Deacons (18-4, 8-3) used a game high 24 points from Josh Howard to upend the Jackets 75-67 on Thursday night. Justin Gray added 20 points for the Deacons. Georgia Tech (12-11, 5-7) was game, but the Jackets could not over come Wake’s hot shooting (53 percent) and its own cold shooting (38 percent). The win keeps Wake Forest a half-game ahead of Duke and Maryland for tops in the ACC, while putting a severe dent into Tech’s NCAA tourney hopes. Jarrett Jack led Georgia Tech with 19 points.

Cardinal Too Much for Feisty Trojans: USC gave No. 21 Stanford all it could handle Thursday night, but in the end, it was free throw shooting that did USC in. After being deadlocked at halftime, USC (10-12, 5-8) missed 7 of its last 12 free throws and were outscored 10-2 in the final 3 and a half minutes of the game in a 73-67 loss. Justin Davis led Stanford (20-6, 11-3) with 20 points, while Julius Barnes added 16 points for the Cardinal. The win is Stanford’s fourth in a row and gives the Cardinal a 20-win season for the ninth year in a row. Desmon Farmer scored a game-high 24 points for USC.

Oregon, Hawaii and Butler Win: Luke Jackson scored 24 points as Oregon beat Washington State 89-70.

Carl English poured in 26 points as host Hawaii defeated Nevada 73-71.

Butler grabbed its 20th win of the season with a 79-64 win over Wright State.

Calhoun Returns: UConn coach Jim Calhoun coached practice for the first time since having his prostate removed on Feb. 6. Calhoun could be back coaching Saturday against St. Johns, but that will be a game time decision. Calhoun was released from the hospital on Feb. 9. In a related story, guard Taliek Brown could also return against St. John’s. Brown has missed the past four games with a broken finger.

I am Sorry: Joe Valdez, father of Texas Tech player Nick Valdez, apologized Thursday after saying that his son was set up. Valdez wrote an e-mail to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal after his son and Andre Emmett were suspended for Monday night’s game against Texas after missing breakfast and a morning walkthrough. Valdez wrote in the e-mail that the players did not receive a customary wake-up call and were set up as punishment for the team’s past defeats. Valdez wrote and faxed a letter of apology to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and to the Tech coaching staff. In the meantime, both players were reinstated Tuesday, but Valdez failed to show up for practices on Wednesday and Thursday. Emmett has not missed a practice since being reinstated. Since Valdez has missed two consecutive practices, his status with the team is uncertain. Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said that Valdez came to practice on Wednesday, but his teammates told him to leave because of Valdez’s father’s e-mail. According to Myers, the players were unhappy that Valdez and his father were airing out their problems in to the media.

Tonight’s Menu

&#8226 Full slate of Ivy League action on tap as Cornell is at Yale, Penn is at Harvard, Princeton is at Dartmouth and Columbia is at Brown. All games tip off at 7 p.m.

&#8226 Out west, Santa Clara takes on San Francisco at 10 p.m., and San Diego takes on St. Mary’s (CA) at 10:05 p.m.

&#8226 In the dirty south’s lone match-up, Jacksonville State clashes with Georgia State at 8 p.m.

Have a great Friday and enjoy Bracket Buster Saturday. Later.

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