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UCLA falls to 2-6 at Pauley Pavilion

1/17/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Eager to return to the court after the latest
controversy about their coach, the UCLA Bruins found nothing much had changed.

They dug themselves a 21-point hole, expended all their energy
erasing much of it and lost their third in a row.

Curtis Millage scored 23 points and Arizona State repelled
UCLA's late rally for a 75-64 victory Thursday night, giving the
Sun Devils consecutive wins at Pauley Pavilion for the first time
in their history.

Arizona State (12-4) improved to 4-1 in the Pac-10 for the first
time since 1987-88. Last season, the Sun Devils beat UCLA 69-68 at
Pauley to snap a 15-game losing streak dating to 1987.

"It's good to win on the road. Twice in a row here is
wonderful,'' Arizona State coach Rob Evans said.

The Bruins (4-8, 2-2) fell to 2-6 on their home floor, equaling
their most losses at Pauley in one season. The 1987-88 team went
11-6 in the building.

"What's frustrating is we dig a hole and then we fight, scratch
and claw and get back in the game. We've expended so much energy
and now we're short on time and our margin for error is so small,
we don't have enough to get over the hump,'' beleaguered UCLA coach
Steve Lavin said.

Earlier in the week, Lavin vowed he wouldn't resign, although
the Bruins are off to their worst start since 1987-88, Walt
Hazzard's final year on the job.

"We're not playing very effective basketball and obviously we
haven't been very successful in terms of wins and losses, but I
really like the group and that's why it was ridiculous that people
thought I'd ever consider resigning,'' Lavin said.

Newly instituted full-court pressure and five-man substitutions
didn't give the Bruins the jump they were seeking.

"With the five-in and five-out, I don't think guys had the
rhythm. We just weren't playing hard,'' said UCLA senior Jason
Kapono, who was among the starters to get yanked. "The bottom line
is we just got to bring it, no matter what.

"It was good to get out on the court, but our goal is to get a
win. We pretty much played for maybe 18 minutes and still got a
loss. We've got to get past spotting teams 20-point leads and then
trying to play the comeback kid for the last 25 minutes,'' Kapono
said.

The booing and catcalls so prevalent after earlier losses at
Pauley were muted this time, and the cheering was at its loudest
when the Bruins closed within six in the final four minutes after
being down 21 points early in the second half.

But the crowd of 7,710 was about 400 less than the season
average, which is the worst in 10 years.

"We played well in the second half and I thought the crowd was
great,'' Lavin said. "We played poorly in the first half and I
thought the crowd was angry.''

The Sun Devils, who held a double-digit lead most of the game,
pulled away by outscoring UCLA 11-6 in the final 3:21. Millage was
fouled by Dijon Thompson on a 3-point attempt and he made all three
shots.

"It was a good feeling to ice the game,'' Millage said.
"Back-to-back wins at Pauley feels very special.''

Freshman Ike Diogu, the Sun Devils' leading scorer, and Tommy
Smith added 16 points each. Smith also had 10 rebounds as Arizona
State controlled the boards, 33-27.

"It's always a big game to play here,'' Smith said.

Kapono scored 17 points after taking just two shots in the first
half when the Bruins trailed by 18 at the break. He moved into
fifth on the school career scoring list with 1,821 points, passing
Ed O'Bannon, who had 1,815 from 1992-95.

"We never give ourselves a chance,'' said Kapono, who sustained
a deep right thigh bruise after being kneed by Donnell Knight.

UCLA shot 44 percent from the floor; Arizona State had held nine
opponents under 40 percent.

The Sun Devils led 60-42 with 9½ minutes left when UCLA began
its comeback. The Bruins used a 16-4 run, including seven by
Thompson, to trail 64-58 with 4:13 left. UCLA's press forced a
turnover, but Kapono missed a basket that would have put the Bruins
within four.

The Sun Devils missed four consecutive free throws until Millage
hit both of his for a 66-58 lead.

"We play such unemotional basketball in the first half,'' said
UCLA guard Ray Young, who started and went scoreless in 23 minutes.
"We always show glimpses like we did in the second half, but we
can't never put it together for 40 minutes. We're going to have to
do that if we don't want to embarrass ourselves this year.''

UCLA starter T.J. Cummings drew his third foul 2½ minutes into
the game and sat the rest of the half. Guard Ryan Walcott also
picked up three fouls in the first half.

Five minutes in, Lavin made the first of several wholesale
substitutions in which all five players were replaced. The Sun
Devils were too quick to be held up by UCLA's press, a tactic the
team decided to employ during a Monday meeting in which Lavin
explained to the players that he wasn't resigning.

Until late in the game, the crowd cheered loudest for a group of
young boys who played at halftime.