Nov 21, 2001
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
LAHAINA, Hawaii - Only once in the storied history of UCLA basketball have the Bruins shot better than they did Wednesday in an 89-77 victory over South Carolina in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational.
The third-ranked Bruins bounced back from a loss to Ball State in the semifinals a day earlier by shooting 72.9 percent, making 35 of 48 shots.
Sophomore forward T.J. Cummings was 11-of-12 from the field and had career-highs of 25 points and nine rebounds.
"Every shot I put up I think is going in," said Cummings, the son of former NBA player Terry Cummings. "I thought I took some pretty good ones tonight."
The only time UCLA had a better shooting effort was on Jan. 24, 1996, when the Bruins went 38-for-52 (73.1 percent) against Southern California.
"We watched video for about three hours last night," UCLA coach Steve Lavin said, referring to how his teams spent the hours after the 91-73 loss to Ball State. "I thought the kids did a good job of applying what they learned off that and it showed by shooting 72 percent."
The Bruins (2-1) shot 22-for-28 in the first half (78.6 percent) in opening a 21-point lead.
The Bruins took their first 20-point lead at 42-22 on a basket by Jason Kapono with 4:15 left. Their biggest lead in the first half was 46-25 on a jumper by Dijon Thompson with 1:51 to play.
The great shooting half was capped by a buzzer-beating jumper by Cummings that made it 48-30. The Bruins held South Carolina to 36 percent shooting in the first half and forced 10 turnovers.
Kapono added 19 points for the Bruins, who looked like a totally different team than the one that lost 91-73 to Ball State in the semifinals.
"The three days here were a great experience for our team," Lavin said. "We would have like to have 3-0 but only one team will. We learned a lot about ourselves and made it a positive experience."
Jamel Bradley had 21 points and Carlos Powell added 17 for the Gamecocks (1-2), who followed an opening-round win over Chaminade with losses to No. 1 Duke and UCLA.
"They were extraordinary in the first half. I don't know if I've ever had a team shoot like that against us for a half," first-year South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "I think when we watch the tape we'll find they had a lot of layups, open looks and easy bank shots because of our defense. It's amazing we were as close as we were. If that's not enough to give you a wakeup call defensively I don't know what would be."
Cummings' previous career-highs were 24 points and seven rebounds last against Kansas. The 24 points are the most scored in a collegiate debut by a UCLA freshman.
Cummings was 7-for-8 from the field to lead the first-half shooting performance and was 20-for-27 for the three games in the tournament, despite not starting any of them.
"That's a great luxury to have a frontline like that that gives you four or five quality bodies," Lavin said. "I think we will be able to wear people out."
Billy Knight, who had all but one of his points in the first half, was 3-for-4 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes as the Bruins went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc in taking control.
South Carolina was able to get within 11 points, 82-71 with 1:25 left, but the Bruins made six straight free throws to end the threat.
The Bruins' last appearance in the tournament sponsored by EA Sports was in 1995, when the defending national champions came ranked No. 4 and were upset by Santa Clara in the opening round. They finished sixth that year, losing to Vanderbilt in the fifth-place game.