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Final Four Memories

1998 NCAA Men's Tournament

  Bruins Play Like Wizard's to Take Title

By J.A. Adande
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 4, 1995


UCLA head coach Jim Harrick and his UCLA team raise the NCAA championship trophy
UCLA head coach Jim Harrick and his UCLA team hold the NCAA championship trophy after taking the 1995 title.
(TWP File Photo)
No more looking back for UCLA. After 20 years without a national championship, the Bruins can look up -- to the rafters, where they will add another banner to the 10 already hanging in Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins unleashed themselves from the burdens of history with an 89-78 victory over defending champ Arkansas in the NCAA tournament final before a crowd of 38,540 at the Kingdome, including Mr. Championship himself, John Wooden, who was known as the "Wizard of Westwood" when he coached the Bruins to their first 10 titles, from 1964 to 1975.

"This is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream," said UCLA Coach Jim Harrick, whose team's 31-2 record this season was the school's best since the 1972-73 championship team went 30-0. "This is the pinnacle for me."

Harrick is the sixth coach to come to UCLA since Wooden stepped down, and like all the others was subjected to the pressures of living up to Wooden's unmatched standards.

"He had some big shoes to fill," UCLA backup point guard Cameron Dollar said of Harrick. "I think people at UCLA were kind of spoiled by what Coach Wooden did. :Harrick: won't say, Hey, I told you I can do this,' but in his heart I know he's so happy and he has that glow and warmness in his heart that he did it."

While Harrick was battling Wooden's enormous legacy, Dollar had the more immediate and important task of filling the size 11 Reeboks worn by starting point guard Tyus Edney.

Senior forward Ed O'Bannon was a first-team all-American, the national player of the year in some circles and was named the Final Four's most outstanding player after scoring 30 points and grabbing 17 rebounds tonight. But O'Bannon himself has called Edney the team's most valuable player. Edney had been one of the stellar performers in the tournament and won the team's second-round game against Missouri with a last-second shot. But he sprained his right wrist in the Bruins' semifinal win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, and had to come out of tonight's game after just 2 1/2 minutes.

"I didn't have the strength I needed," Edney said. "I knew it would probably hurt my team if I tried to stay in the game."

So in came Dollar, who promptly committed a turnover.

"On the first play, when I got the ball stolen, I was thinking about the big shoes I had to fill," said Dollar, an Atlanta native who played prep ball at St. John's Prospect Hall in Frederick, Md. "I was thinking, Man, this is a big job.' I knew I could do it. At the same time I was thinking, Man, national championship game and I get ripped.' It was at that point I realized it was just like playing pickup. Settle down, relax and have fun. And I was able to do that."

He scored only six points and didn't make his only field goal until less than a minute remained. But by then he had already had eight assists and only three turnovers against Arkansas' intense, pressing defense.

"It's funny," Dollar said. "Something happens and you get popped into the spotlight. It's a great feeling to get that opportunity. When opportunity knocks, you better be ready to answer."

Arkansas got no response from its junior forwards Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman. Williamson had 12 points on 3-for-16 shooting and Thurman scored only five points while making just 1 of 7 three-point shots, as the pair's combined production fell 19 points below their average.

Meanwhile, OBannon and Dollar got considerable help from freshman guard Toby Bailey, who totaled 26 points and nine rebounds; center George Zidek, who had 14 points and six rebounds while controlling Williamson; and O'Bannon's brother, Charles, who added 11 points.

"They actually played one of the better basketball games that we played against," said Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson, whose team finished 32-7. "I thought the O'Bannon boys, especially Ed, played superb games. So did Toby Bailey. I thought he played above the rim. We went against them like we were in mud most of the night. . . . Tonight UCLA was the best basketball team, there's no question about it."

With the game in hand during the final minute, the Bruins were able to spread a little frosting over this oh-so-sweet moment. There was Ed O'Bannon throwing a baseball pass to his brother for a breakaway dunk. There was Ed O'Bannon soaring in for a thunderous dunk of his own, the last points of his college career. And there was Dollar, breaking away for a layup that was his only basket of the game.

Edney, a senior, wasn't forgotten either, as the crowd chanted "Tyus! Tyus! Tyus!" in recognition of his efforts throughout the season and his career.

"It was extremely hard to sit over there and not do anything to help," Edney said. "But I tried to do anything I could on the sideline to help the team and try to encourage them in any way. And that gave me a positive feeling, when I heard them chant my name."

Edney had the wrist in a cast for 24 hours before the game and wasn't allowed to even touch a ball. He stayed in the locker room while the Bruins went through their pre-game warmups. Edney used his left hand to slap his teammates' hands during the introductions.

What had been the game's most anticipated matchup -- Edney vs. Corey Beck at point guard, fizzled with Edney's injury and Beck's ineffectiveness. Beck played only seven minutes in the first half, scored two points and sat for the final 6:30 after committing his third foul.

Bailey and Clint McDaniel wound up being the star guards. After a slow start, Bailey scored 12 points in the half; McDaniel scored 16. McDaniel made two three-pointers and a layup during a 13-4 run that enabled Arkansas to regain the lead at 39-38. But the Bruins broke Arkansas' press for two-on-one fast break, as Charles O'Bannon fed J.R. Henderson for a layup that put the Bruins up 40-39 at halftime.

UCLA took a 12-point lead with 11:27 left in the game. However, the Bruins were showing the effects of playing at Arkansas' exhausting pace with only six players, while Richardson used 12 players, getting points from 10 of them.

The Bruins tried to slow the tempo by walking the ball upcourt on offense and playing a 2-3 zone on defense. But the Razorbacks would have none of that. They forced four turnovers and held the Bruins to only two points during the next six minutes; they also closed to within 67-64 on a free throw by Williamson with 5:22 left.

Yet the Bruins found a resiliency that flew in the face of those who questioned the West Coast team's heart. They scored 22 more points, while the Razorbacks got only four field goals the rest of the way.

"It was the national championship game," Ed O'Bannon said. "Ain't no way nobody is going to come out in this game and talk about being tired."

In the end it was the Razorbacks who fell short of UCLA's legacy as Arkansas tried to join the Bruins' dynasty teams in the group of seven teams that have won back-to-back titles.

"The only way I could be totally happy was to win the national championship and have a repeat," Richardson said. "It's the same way I think our kids feel. They don't feel like they had a great season. But as I try to point out to myself, to my coaching staff and to the players, we've had a heck of a year."

At UCLA, where anything less than a championship is considered a failure, it can finally be thought of as a successful season.

© Copyright 1995 The Washington Post Company

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