Sunday, March 17, 2002

DAUGHERTY: Bruins don't have UC's heart



By Paul Daugherty, pdaugherty@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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        PITTSBURGH — They're good when they feel like it. The UCLA Bruins are a lot like their town: Pretty to look at when their makeup isn't running. There is much skin-deep beauty in L.A. Some of it hangs out at Pauley Pavilion.

        This afternoon, the Bruins play UC. The Bearcats are not UCLA. If they were, Bob Huggins would rip their throats out. UCLA takes games off; UC doesn't take plays off. That leaves even the Bruins to wonder how good they'd be if they had UC's spine.

        “We probably wouldn't lose a game,” said Dan Gadzuric, the 6-foot-11 center.

        UCLA beat Kansas by 10 and Alabama by 22. UCLA lost at Oregon by 29 and by one at Villanova. Villanova?

        “This team is weird,” said leading scorer Jason Kapono.

        This is where UC's sweat ethic makes a grand entrance. The Bearcats always feel like playing. When they lose, it's because they don't make shots, not because the players call in sick.

        National spotlight

        If the Bruins come to play today, with their Rolls Royce roster of high school all-Americans, it will be a very good game. CBS is counting on it: The game is going national, all by itself.

        If the Bruins decide to blow off work and throw the Frisbee at the beach, it could get ugly. Because, beyond the obvious talent disparity (UCLA has McDonald's all-Americans; Cincinnati eats there), here is the big difference between the two:

        One works all the time. One doesn't. Rolled sleeves and French cuffs.

        One team started the year ranked No.3 and finished it unranked. One started the year unranked and finished it No.5. One hasn't won three games in a row in three months; the other hasn't lost three straight in three seasons.

        “They have more talent than anyone we've played in the last three years,” UC assistant Dan Peters said.

        “I don't think you're ever going to catch Cincinnati on an off day,” UCLA coach Steve Lavin said.

        Talent is a blessing and a curse. As Cal point guard Shantay Legans noted Saturday: “UCLA has so much talent. Teams like that sometimes lack discipline.”

        Sometimes. UCLA had more turnovers this season than assists.

        Interested?

        It's hard to imagine the Bruins won't be interested today. But you never know.

        “We've been up and down,” said point guard Cedric Bozeman. “But we've done it consistently.”

        Said Kapono: “It's not like we choose to turn it off. It's kind of the way it happens. When you start to think you have a read (on this team), you're far from it. We beat Kansas and lost to Villanova with the same team, same players, same coaches, same everything.”

        The Bruins felt like playing Friday and crushed a decent Mississippi team. They are taller than UC at every position. Every starter comes with a Spiderman wingspan. UC's chronic scoring problems won't be solved against this defense.

        Kapono, Gadzuric, Bozeman and Billy Knight all probably will play in the NBA. The Bruins beat Ole Miss with five bench players, whom Lavin sent in midway through the first half to pump up the volume. The scrubs outscored Mississippi's best 18-3.

        The Bruins are good when they feel like it. Apparently, they feel like it now. “It's March,” Kapono shrugged.

        Will a burst of want-to be good enough this afternoon?

        Basketball game and morality play, all in one. Stay tuned.

        Contact Paul Daugherty at 768-8454; e-mail: pdaugherty@enquirer.com

       



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