Dec. 21, 2001
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) - With a rejuvenated inside game, UCLA goes for its fifth straight win and 18th in a row over Washington State when the Pac-10 schools meet Saturday.
The 19th-ranked Bruins (6-2, 1-0) are opening conference play with a two-game trek to the Pacific Northwest. They started the trip with an 85-79 win over Washington for their fourth consecutive victory.
Now they'll look to maintain their streak over Washington State (4-4, 0-0), which has not beaten UCLA since Feb. 6, 1993. The Cougars have won just 12 times in 92 all-time meetings with the Bruins.
A key part of UCLA's victory against the Huskies on Thursday was the breakout performance of center Dan Gadzuric, who scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. The preseason Wooden Award candidate had averaged only 6.1 points and 5.1 boards in the team's first seven games.
"I had been a little down on myself for my shooting," said Gadzuric, who averaged 11.7 points and 8.6 rebounds last season. "But tonight I had a different mindset. I didn't fade away. I went right to the hoop and drew fouls and got easy baskets."
UCLA coach Steve Lavin realizes his team's success could depend on the 6-foot-11 native of The Netherlands.
"When we took off last year, it had to do with the good play from Dan Gadzuric on both ends of the floor," Lavin said. "When he plays well at both ends, it brings a whole new dimension to our team. It allows us to play at a higher level."
Gadzuric may have also benefitted from having starting frontcourt mate Matt Barnes back in the lineup. The senior forward, who had missed a week with an injured ankle after stepping on Gadzuric's foot in practice, contributed 12 points in his return.
Much of UCLA's offense comes from the other starting forward spot. Jason Kapono scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half of Thursday's win, helping the Bruins erase a seven-point halftime deficit.
Kapono tops the team with 21.6 points per contest, while Barnes is UCLA's leading rebounder at 6.3 a game.
Jerry McNair and Marcus Moore lead the Cougars with 14.3 points and 14.1 points per game, respectively. That duo, however, was held to a combined 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting in last Saturday's 67-44 loss to then-No. 25 Gonzaga.
It was Washington State's 26th consecutive loss against a ranked opponent, dating to a win over then-No. 25 California on Feb. 22, 1997.