Monday, March 18, 2002
A could-have-been ending
Bearcats couldn't put away Bruins
PITTSBURGH Regret is a tough word to apply to a team that won 31 of 35. Especially to UC's collection of do-gooding overachievers, who got as close to Bob Huggins' crusty insides as any team ever has. But regret applies.
A No.1 seed lost to a No.8 Sunday because ultimately, No.8 scrapped a little harder. UC had UCLA wobbly. UC led by 11 with nine minutes to play. UC should have sent the Bruins back to LA on a boogie board.
Given UCLA's reputation for softness, the Bearcats should have won big. Even as the game got close, even as regulation time went to overtime once and again, UC should have won. Because tough teams win tough games, don't they?
Donald Little rebounds.
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After 40 minutes and an 80-all tie, the game became a test of wills. Who'd have guessed UC would lose one of those?
We're up (10) at halftime? Steve Logan asked. We're supposed to come out and just drill these guys. We had 'em. All we had to do was keep playing hard, playing defense and making shots, which we didn't do. They got open looks, they got drives, they got calls. We usually play through that. We didn't today.
What an epitaph for UC's season. Logan was not great during the game Sunday; he was all-world afterward. It happened just the way he said.
Our intensity dropped a lot in the second half was how Donald Little put it.
UCLA's Matt Barnes drives into Jamaal Davis.
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Why, in the biggest game of the year, against a pretty team that traditionally seeks reasons to go to the beach, was it the tough overachievers who let down?
I have no idea, Logan said.
There were any number of small plays that let the Bruins back in it. They were variously attributed to freak bounces, questionable calls (and non-calls) and just bad luck.
Regrets: Matt Barnes knocked down consecutive threes to get UCLA back in the game because nobody was guarding him. Matt Barnes can shoot the 3. We know that, Logan said. I don't know whose man it was. No blame, it's a team game, but somebody should have run out there on him. He was wide open.
Billy Knight followed a Barnes miss with a layup and a free throw because no Bearcat boxed him out. That put the Bruins up four with 1:26 left in double overtime. That play didn't decide the game. It did define it.
The Bruins found their passion and their stride in the second half; the Bearcats misplaced theirs.
Jason Maxiell dunks.
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Regrets: On their next possession, the Bruins got a wide open jumper in the lane. Say what? Dijon Thompson swished it and UCLA led by six with 40 seconds left.
Meanwhile Logan, UC's player of the year candidate, had 18 points, the last three coming with four seconds left and the game decided.
UCLA draped a 6-foot-6 point guard on him, and sometimes double-teamed him. Logan did have seven assists; UCLA's obsession with stopping him helped Stokes score 39.
But the 6-6 point guard, Cedric Bozeman, was a freshman. UC needed Logan to be great Sunday. He got to the point where he wasn't looking for his shot.
Huggins was not in a regretting mood afterward. They played, they listened, they tried, he said. We did the best we can possibly do.
Huggins was the only guy who could guard Leonard Stokes on Sunday. With 26 seconds left in UC's season, the coach wrapped Stokes in a bear hug and rubbed him on the head. You were terrific, Huggins said.
They all were, given the expectations for them last November. But this wasn't November.
It's a tough feeling were the last words of Steve Logan's fine career. I hate this feeling.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/daugherty.
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