It was Senior Day at Pauley Pavilion, 1989, and the Bruins were waiting and waiting and waiting for No. 1 Arizona.
The UA was delayed getting to Los Angeles because it had unaccountably been scheduled to play a Thursday night game at Washington State, where it clinched the Pac-10 title, improving its record to 23-3.
The Wildcats drove until midnight to Spokane, Wash., slept six hours, flew to Seattle, changed planes, and arrived in Los Angeles in mid-afternoon. Getting to the hotel and then fighting freeway traffic to Pauley Pavilion was so imposing that an afternoon workout at Pauley was scuttled.
The turnaround was so brief — Saturday’s tipoff was 12:30 p.m. on NBC — that Lute Olson also canceled the customary mid-morning shoot-around at the arena.
That’s how the nation’s No. 1 team rolled 25 years ago. No charter flights. No two days off between games. Trains, planes and automobiles in sneakers.
But it didn’t dull the anticipation of an Arizona-UCLA game at Pauley, which for three decades has been the league’s signature basketball rivalry.
Arizona clinched its first Pac-10 championship at Pauley in 1986. It has won there 11 times in that period, more than any other team (Stanford has won 10). Instant classics? Arizona and UCLA’s total point differential in the last 25 Pauley Pavilion games is 15 points. That’s about 0.6 of a margin per game.
Four went to overtime.
Tonight’s game is the first time since 1989, an almost poetic 25 years, since Arizona has arrived to Pauley Pavilion ranked No. 1.
Arizona has played in the House That John Wooden Built ranked Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. (The UA has been ranked No. 2 in four games at Pauley).
UCLA has been similarly formidable. The Bruins have been ranked Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10 while playing host to the Wildcats.
Tonight’s anniversary game, a quarter-century between No. 1 Wildcat teams in L.A., can’t possibly be as volatile as the one in 1989. Can it?
UCLA coach Jim Harrick and center Kevin Walker were both called for technical fouls. Bruins star Don MacLean was twice called for intentional fouls.
Harrick raged that Olson was not similarly penalized “for stomping on the sideline.” A third intentional foul, called on UCLA’s Trevor Wilson with the game tied at 65, led to a five-point swing and a 70-65 Arizona lead.
“Trevor took 23 shots in the game and never got fouled,” Harrick said, complaining that Wilson shot just one free throw. “Amazing.”
Arizona won 89-86, in spite of Wilson’s 30 points, because Jud Buechler had an 18-13 double-double and because Sean Elliott scored 26 points.
Memories of Pauley? Here’s my list, the Super Seven of the last 25 UA-UCLA games at Pauley Pavilion (there was no game there in 2012):
1. Brian Williams scored 32 points on 14-of-15 shooting and yanked down 14 rebounds in a 105-94 overtime victory, 1991. Arizona, ranked No. 5, beat the No. 14 Bruins. It was the top individual performance in the UA-UCLA series, but the shot of the game was a buzzer-beating, game-tying jumper by Chris Mills to force overtime.
2. Elliott was rarely better than he was at Pauley: He scored 97 points in four games, more than anyone in the series. I’m fudging outside the 25-game border to include the 1986 game, when Elliott, as a freshman, scored 28 in a shoot-out against Reggie Miller, who had 29. Arizona won 88-76, clinching its first conference title.
3. MacLean was superb against Arizona at Pauley. He scored 88 points, including 28 in 1992 when the No. 8 Bruins beat No. 2 Arizona 89-81.
4. In 1988, Steve Kerr played all 45 minutes of No. 3 Arizona’s 78-76 overtime victory, scoring 15 points, dishing six assists, and not having a turnover while guarded by All-American Pooh Richardson.
5. UCLA center Dan Gadzuric, not often associated with Pauley Pavilion greatness, led a two-year sweep over No. 8 and No. 9 Arizona in 2001 and 2002, scoring 44 points and accumulating 33 rebounds. The Bruins won two epic finishes, 79-77 and 77-76.
6. Damon Stoudamire and Ed O’Bannon were franchise players, and the Pauley Pavilion stage brought out the best in both. In 1995, with UCLA en route to the NCAA championship, Stoudamire scored 27 and O’Bannon 31 (the highest of any Bruin in this series), as UCLA won 72-70. “To me,” Stoudamire said, “they’re the champs now. It’s probably the toughest loss I’ve had in my four years.”
7. Dick Vitale didn’t broadcast every UA-UCLA game at Pauley Pavilion in the ’90s, but it seemed that way. In 1997, after stunning Arizona in overtime, UCLA fans stormed the court, almost taking Vitale to the ground while doing so. But in ’98, Arizona won 91-87, as Michael Dickerson scored 30 for No. 2 Arizona.
It was the UA’s final regular-season game, capping a 17-1 conference season and setting the stage for a run at a second consecutive NCAA title.
“After what we ran into here, I think I’m looking forward to the (NCAA) tournament,” Olson said afterward. “I don’t know how many more of these I can take.”
And here we go again.