Mark Aguirre had already scored 23 points, grabbed nine rebounds, made four assists, and helped the guards handle the ball when necessary. Now, with 43 seconds left and top-ranked De Paul coasting to its stunning 93-77 victory over UCLA today, it was time for Aguirre to make his exit.
Onto the court came Brett Burkholder. Aguirre gave him a high five that came straight from his toes, then shuffled to the bench, grabbed Coach Ray Meyer and bearhugged him, yelling, "I love you, I love you," in the coach's ear.
Down the bench he went slapping hands with everyone. Finally, he turned to the 16,702 screaming fans shook his index finger at them and led several choruses of, "Hey, hey, good-bye," as the clock ran out.
For Aguirre, Meyer and everyone connected with De Paul, this was a day for purging emotions that had been pent up for almost 10 months, since the day in March when UCLA knocked the Blue Demons out of the NCAA Tournament.
"I was so pumped up I couldn't calm myself down when I tried," said Aguirre, who screamed during warmups, screamed during player introductions and was still screaming when it was over. "That game in Arizona (the NCAAs) was as bad a hurt as I've ever had. It was a terrible shock. Since then, we've all been waiting for this day."
That was evident almost from the beginning. The third-ranked Bruins -- young, fast and multitalented -- couldn't handle Aguirre, Clyde Bradshaw, Terry Cummings and Teddy Grubbs at their best. They couldn't handle De Paul's zone and surprisingly, they couldn't hanlde the press.
By halftime, it was 47-29 for the Blue Demons. UCLA (6-1) never got closer than 12 in the second half and once the lead climbed to 23. With the entre country watching, De Paul (9-0) got its revenge and then some.
By the end, Cummings had 19 points and eight rebounds, Bernard Randolph had 14 off the bench, Grubbs had 12 and Bradshaw had eight points, six rebounds and a large role in holding Rod Foster to one point during the first half.
"A lot of things I've told our kids could happen down the road happened today," said UCLA Coach Larry Brown, who spent much of the day arguing with the officials. "When the other guys are in a zone and you miss and nobody's there to rebound, you're in trouble.
"We're young and we're learning. I'm sure we all learned a lot today."
They learned that De Paul, 26-2 last season, is even better this year. With Aguirre 30 pounds lighter and a more mature, better all-around player, with Cummings and Gurbbs older and with Randolph and Dennis Moore supplying punch off the bench, this team is more versatile. And it plays better defense.
"The key for us was getting ahead and being able to go to a zone," Meyer said. "Before the game we thought if we cold play a lot of the game in zone we would make it hard for them. It worked out that way."
De Paul jumped in and out of the zone the first 10 minutes as both teams started tight and Aguirre, so pumped up that he shot over the rim on a layup, started one for five from the floor.
Then, 12 minutes into the half, an eight-foot jumb shot by Cummings put the Blue Demons up, 22-20 and they went exclusively to their zone. From 8:33 left in the half until 2:28 was left, Ucla's offense consisted of one free throw as De Paul opened a 39-23 lead.
Aguirre, as might be expected, started the spurt, with a foul shot, a jumper in the lane and a 22-footer that sent the crowd into a frenzy and caused Brown to call time. Randolph hit two free throws, then Tony Anderson got UCLA's point to make it 31-23.
"Those last five minutes of the half killed us," Brown said. "We were in foul trouble (Michael Sanders and Kenny Fields had three each) and we didn't handle their press."
The key plays off the press came after Cummings had made it 35-23 with two more foul shots. Moore stole the inbounds pass and hit a 10-footer, then Cliff Pruitt threw away another pass. Aguirre made a 10-footer on the ensuing play and it was 39-23 with 2:34 left and all but over.
"The press broke the game for us," Assistant Coach Joe Meyer said. "We knew coming in our kids were up. Coach was more relaxed before this game than any all season. He knew the kids were ready."
De Paul was so ready to shot 57 percent; UCLA, shooting 54 percent coming in, hit 38 percent the first half, 46 percent for the game.
And so it was left to Aguirre to put the final punctuation mark on the day. Reaching deep into his duffle back, he pulled out a worn T-shirt. "Beat UCLA," it said.
"I've been waiting nine months to put this baby on," he said. "Now I can wear it and I can smile."
He smiled, grinned, then laughed. The purge was complete.