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Washington State 55, UCLA 48

2/6/2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Washington State coach Dick Bennett gave his
team a history lesson upon arriving at Pauley Pavilion, where the
Cougars had never won.

"This place housed the greatest players, teams and the best
coach in NCAA history," he said. "I pointed to each of the
banners and mentioned the ones I remembered. We needed to come out
with the energy to match the feeling of this building."

Did they ever.

Thomas Kelati scored 15 points, Jeff Varem added 13 and
Washington State defeated UCLA 55-48 Thursday night, beating the
Bruins for the first time in Los Angeles.

"This was a big win," Varem said. "We beat a good team in a
place with a lot of history."

The Cougars (10-10, 4-6 Pac-10) blew all but two points of a
14-point lead in the second half, but recovered to end a 46-game
losing streak against the Bruins in the city -- including an 0-38
record at Pauley Pavilion.

"I told the team that if it is going to happen, it's right now
because they are a young team in a new program," Bennett said.
"This one is so important because it shows we are pointed in the
right direction."

John Wooden, the man who coached UCLA to 10 of its 11 national
championships, watched from behind the Bruins' bench as the Cougars
made history.

"There's a first time for everything and unfortunately it was
this year," first-year UCLA coach Ben Howland said, his voice
quieter than it's been after any game this season.

Washington State hadn't had much luck against the Bruins on its
home court, either. The Cougars had lost 22 consecutive games to
UCLA, with their last victory coming in 1993 in Pullman.

"I heard a rumor that we can't win here," Varem said. "We had
to come together and play hard to pull this one off. We came out
feeling good and feeling we could win this game."

Howland said earlier in the week that the Cougars were a
dangerous team. Indeed, they've snapped several losing streaks in
their first season under Bennett, who has installed the same
grinding defensive scheme that he used in guiding Wisconsin to the
2000 Final Four.

The Cougars broke a 27-game road losing streak in November in
Alaska; stopped a 22-game Pac-10 road losing skid at California in
January; then beat Southern California last month to stop a
nine-game slide against the Trojans.

The Cougars nearly beat No. 12 Arizona last Saturday, but lost
61-57.

"They had us playing at their tempo. They took every
opportunity and made the best out of it," UCLA senior T.J.
Cummings said. "It hits me like a dagger every time. I hate to
lose."

UCLA (9-9, 5-5) continued its tailspin with its sixth straight
loss after winning its first five Pac-10 games, including a 48-45
victory over the Cougars on Jan. 8.

The Bruins were held to 19 first-half points, but only trailed
by four at the break.

Washington State's Marcus Moore opened the second half with a
3-pointer and Kelati followed with another. Moments later, the
Cougars ran off 11 straight points for a 40-26 lead with 11:36
remaining.

The Bruins fought back with a 17-5 burst that left them trailing
45-43 with 3:27 remaining. Cummings scored nine points in the
spurt, but that would be the Bruins' best effort the rest of the
way.

"We almost gave it away," Bennett said. "When they erased the
big lead I noticed we were shook. Some timely rebounds on offense
sealed the win for us."

Kelati made two free throws, then Varem scored inside after
Moore grabbed the offensive rebound and Washington State led 49-43
with 1:53 left. The second-smallest crowd of the season at 7,299
began leaving with about a minute to play and the Bruins down by
eight.

"With the tradition and history of this program, to be going
through this again for a second year in a row is very difficult,"
said Howland, who replaced the fired Steve Lavin after UCLA's worst
season in decades.

Cummings and Dijon Thompson led UCLA with 15 points each.
Neither team shot better than 36 percent for the game.

UCLA's total points equaled its lowest of the season.
Ironically, 48 points were enough to beat the Cougars earlier.