Watson, Bruins Get Another Shot At Duke

March 18, 2001

GREENSBORO, N.C. - Earl Watson was a homesick freshman the last time he played Duke.

Lost in the hustle and bustle at UCLA and lonely for his family back in Kansas City, his miserable performance in that 120-84 drubbing was just another reason why Watson wanted to pack up and go home.

Bruins coach Steve Lavin talked him out of it, just as he did on several other occasions when Watson needed assurance that he belonged at UCLA.

Four years later, Watson can't imagine life without UCLA. He cried like a baby after Senior Night and grabbed Lavin in a long, emotional embrace after the Bruins beat Utah State on Saturday to advance to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

That victory set up a rematch next week with Duke, where Watson and UCLA (23-8) get a chance to atone for the 1998 debacle.

"It's been a long road, one I couldn't have made without coach," he said. "He's always been there for me, like a brother. When I was down and homesick, he talked to me about other things and convinced me how silly it would all seem two weeks down the road."

Lavin chooses his words carefully when he remembers those days, his eyes dropping down as a wave of emotion hits him.

"He was very introverted when he came to UCLA, very quiet and very shy," Lavin said. "He was very slow to trust people and I don't know why.

"The quantum leaps he has made are really special and I've been really blessed to play a small part in his development. He's gone from not being sure he belonged to one of the all-time greats, kind of turned into the mayor of Westwood."

There's a strong bond between Lavin and these Bruins. Although this year marks the fourth time in his five seasons he's taken UCLA into the round of 16, this is the first time he's done it with a team made up strictly of players he recruited.

They've been through thick and thin with Lavin, supporting him every time their play led to questions about his job security, and turned it up a notch when he drew fire after their 4-4 start this season.

"If I'm going to struggle, this is a group I want to struggle with," Lavin said. "This is a remarkable group - their maturity, character, togetherness - seeing their individual and collective improvement has made this a special season for me."

Watson now has a chance to come full circle with Lavin when UCLA faces Duke (31-4) next week in Philadelphia.

That first meeting against the Blue Devils was Watson's 26th start and it was awful - he had two points, two turnovers, one assist and one rebound in 27 minutes.

Watson makes it clear, though, that he won't be haunted by memories of that 1998 game and that the Bruins will not fear Duke.

"We're a whole different team than we were three years ago," the senior guard said. "Duke's like any other team to me - they're great, they have a lot of tradition. But you don't go to UCLA and say, 'I want to play Duke really bad."'

And Watson is quick to point out that UCLA has its own tradition for Duke to handle.

"We're UCLA ... we carry a legacy," he said. ""Not only do we have to face them, but they have to face us.

"It's going to be a battle. It's going to be a war."

By JENNA FRYER
AP Sports Writer


EVENT INFORMATION
UCLA Health Sponsor - Event Information
Sunday, Nov 15
vs. Cal Poly
Los Angeles, CA
W, 88 - 83
Thursday, Nov 19
vs. Pepperdine
Los Angeles, CA
W, 81 - 67
Monday, Nov 23
vs. UNLV
Lahaina, HI
W, 77 - 75
Tuesday, Nov 24
vs. Kansas
Lahaina, HI
L, 73 - 92
Wednesday, Nov 25
vs. Wake Forest
Lahaina, HI
L, 77 - 80
Sunday, Nov 29
vs. CSUN
Los Angeles, CA
W, 77 - 45
Thursday, Dec 03
vs. Kentucky
Los Angeles, CA
W, 87 - 77
Sunday, Dec 06
vs. Long Beach State
Los Angeles, CA
W, 83 - 76
Saturday, Dec 12
at Gonzaga
Spokane, WA
W, 71 - 66
Tuesday, Dec 15
vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Los Angeles, CA
W, 89 - 80
Saturday, Dec 19
vs. North Carolina
Brooklyn, NY
L, 76 - 89
Tuesday, Dec 22
vs. McNeese State
Los Angeles, CA
W, 67 - 53
Friday, Jan 01
at Washington
Seattle, WA
L, 93 - 96 (2OT)
Sunday, Jan 03
at Washington State
Pullman, WA
L, 78 - 85
Thursday, Jan 07
vs. Arizona
Los Angeles, CA
W, 87 - 84
Saturday, Jan 09
vs. Arizona State
Los Angeles, CA
W, 81 - 74
Wednesday, Jan 13
vs. USC
Los Angeles, CA
L, 75 - 89
Wednesday, Jan 20
at Oregon State
Corvallis, OR
W, 82 - 73
Saturday, Jan 23
at Oregon
Eugene, OR
L, 72 - 86
Thursday, Jan 28
vs. Washington
Los Angeles, CA
L, 84 - 86
Saturday, Jan 30
vs. Washington State
Los Angeles, CA
W, 83 - 50
Thursday, Feb 04
at USC
Los Angeles, CA
L, 61 - 80
Friday, Feb 12
at Arizona
Tucson, AZ
L, 75 - 81
Sunday, Feb 14 - 5:30 PM PST
at Arizona State
Tempe, AZ
Thursday, Feb 18 - 7:00 PM PST
vs. Utah
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Feb 20 - 8:00 PM PST
vs. Colorado
Los Angeles, CA
Thursday, Feb 25 - 6:00 PM PST
at California
Berkeley, CA
Saturday, Feb 27 - 1:30 PM PST
at Stanford
Stanford, CA
Wednesday, Mar 02 - 6:00 PM PST
vs. Oregon
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, Mar 05 - 3:30 PM PST
vs. Oregon State
Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday, Mar 09 - All Day PST
vs. 2016 Pac-12 Men's ...
Las Vegas, NV
Thursday, Mar 10 - All Day PST
vs. 2016 Pac-12 Men's ...
Las Vegas, NV
Friday, Mar 11 - 6:00 PM PST
vs. 2016 Pac-12 Men's ...
Las Vegas, NV
Friday, Mar 11 - 8:30 PM PST
vs. 2016 Pac-12 Men's ...
Las Vegas, NV
Saturday, Mar 12 - 7:00 PM PST
vs. 2016 Pac-12 Men's ...
Las Vegas, NV
Tuesday, Mar 15 - All Day PST
vs. NCAA First Four
Dayton, OH
Thursday, Mar 17 - All Day PST
vs. NCAA First Round
TBA
Saturday, Mar 19 - All Day PST
vs. NCAA Second Round
TBA
Thursday, Mar 24 - All Day PST
vs. NCAA Regional ...
TBA
Saturday, Mar 26 - All Day PST
vs. NCAA Regional ...
TBA
Saturday, Apr 02 - All Day PST
vs. NCAA National ...
Houston, TX
Monday, Apr 04 - All Day PST
vs. NCAA National ...
Houston, TX
BRUINS ON PAC-12 NETWORKS