Nov. 28, 2001
LOS ANGELES (AP) - After mixed results in Maui, No. 10 UCLA returns to Pauley Pavilion to play host to Pepperdine in the Bruins' home opener on Wednesday.
Last week's Maui Invitational wasn't a total loss for the Bruins (2-1), who escaped Hawaii with a 89-77 win over South Carolina. The win was good enough for third place in the tournament.
Sophomore forward T.J. Cummings was 11-of-12 from the field and had career-highs of 25 points and nine rebounds as UCLA shot 72.9 percent (35-for-48) against the Gamecocks.
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.
The impressive performance helped soften the blow of the 91-73 upset loss to Ball State in the second round.
"We need to clean up our taking care of the basketball," UCLA coach Steve Lavin said after the loss. "We had 22 turnovers they had three. No matter what we tried defensively they went through is like a hot knife through butter. We know we have a long way to go on the defensive end of the floor."
Offensively, the Bruins can depend on Jason Kapono.
Kapono, who averaged 17.6 points a game last season, is again showing a deft scoring touch, and is averaging a team-best 20.3 points per contest.
But Kapono has more on his mind this season than scoring.
"Ever since I've been here, we haven't won the (Maui) tournament, we haven't won a Pac-10 championship, and we've never been to the Final Four," Kapono said. "We'd win the Pac-10 title this year, hang a banner up, and then get a strong seed in the NCAA tournament. We'd like to return to the Final Four, which we haven't been to since we won it all in '95."
First they will avoid a letdown against Pepperdine, a team that have dominated in past seasons.
The Waves (1-1) have dropped 12 straight games to the Bruins, and trail the all-time series 14-2. But UCLA barely escaped when the two teams last clashed at Pauley Pavilion during the 1999-2000 season. The Bruins prevailed by a final score of 68-66 as Pepperdine's game-winning three-pointer was disallowed at the buzzer.
Pepperdine is coming off a hard-fought 96-93 double overtime loss at UC Irvine last Tuesday night.
Devin Montgomery led the way with 17 points, while freshman Terrance Johnson tossed in 16 points. Jimmy Miggins also had a solid game despite the loss, adding 15 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
After its first two contests, Johnson is the team's leading scorer at 15.0 points a game.