March 22, 2001
PHILADELPHIA - UCLA's motto for this season could well be "Go East, Young Men."
The Bruins have played six games this season after heading toward the Atlantic Ocean, and they have won all but one of them.
"It started with the split in the Coaches vs. Cancer at Madison Square Garden (losing to Kansas and beating Kentucky), then we won at Purdue, at DePaul and then the two in Greensboro," UCLA coach Steve Lavin said, referring to first- and second-round wins over Hofstra and Utah State in the NCAA tournament.
The fourth-seeded Bruins went home from North Carolina after their latest win on Saturday, and got to Philadelphia on Monday night to get ready for their regional semifinal with top-seeded and top-ranked Duke on Thursday night.
"We'll have had three days to adjust to the time zone and to adjust to the fatigue you may have from traveling across country," Lavin said. "We've done well when traveling east."
A much bigger problem for the Bruins (23-8) than time zones or travel fatigue will be Duke (31-4), which has won six straight since losing starting center Carlos Boozer to a broken bone in his foot. The 6-foot-9 sophomore will return against UCLA.
"It's good to have Carlos back," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We've had three really good practices with him. I think he's running well. His conditioning is not at the level of the other guys, but it's been good. It's been a real up for our team."
UCLA lost two of its last three regular-season games, but was impressive in the opening rounds of the tournament.
Senior point guard Earl Watson said he wasn't concerned about Duke's status as a heavy favorite.
"I don't care, to be honest with you," he said. "We have to go out there and play the game. It's going to a fun game."
Duke is second in the nation at 91.6 points per game, 11.6 better than the Bruins, and its 3-point shooting has been at 39.5 percent, an even more impressive number because the Blue Devils take an average of 27 per game. Duke has taken 946 3s this season, while UCLA has taken 521.
"You have to get a hand on all shooters to make sure there are no uncontested 3-point shots," Lavin said of defending Duke's long-range attack. "You've got to get a hand up to contest shots and continue to rotate defensively to try and smother the ball and try to finish the defensive possession with a rebound."
Boozer, who averages 14 points and 6.5 rebounds while leading the team in shooting at 60 percent, isn't a 3-point threat, but he does provide bulk up front for the Blue Devils.
"He's going to be a presence for us, and that's all we're asking him to be," Duke All-American forward Shane Battier said.
Lavin isn't worried about Boozer as much as he is Duke.
"Boozer will give them a big body inside who can finish in the paint, but ultimately it's Duke's style of play that is a bigger concern than any one particular individual," he said. "It's having poise against their pressure defense, being able to execute against their pressure defense and not turn the ball over and finish with a high percentage look at the basket.
"Teams that turn it over or teams that shoot quick allow them to boat race the other way, 3-on-2, 2-on-1 breaks, and that's where they're deadly."
The winner will play the winner of the game between second-seeded Kentucky and sixth-seeded Southern California for a berth in the Final Four.
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer