March 7, 2003
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES - Ray Young scored a career-high 30 points and UCLA defeated Washington State 86-71 Thursday night to improve its chances of finishing higher than eighth in the Pac-10.
If the Bruins (8-18, 5-12 Pac-10) stay out of the eighth spot, they could avoid playing No. 1 Arizona in the first round of the conference tournament next week.
Of course, UCLA still must beat Washington on Saturday to guarantee a berth in the eight-team tournament. Bruins coach Steve Lavin said he believes he will be dismissed at the end of the season, which is the Bruins' worst in 55 years. They are 4-10 at Pauley Pavilion, their most losses ever at home in one season.
The news is equally as bad for the Cougars (7-19, 2-15), who extended their streak of never winning at Pauley, where they are 0-46. They've lost 21 consecutive games to the Bruins and are 0-11 on the road this season.
Citing unidentified sources, ESPN.com reported Thursday that Washington State coach Paul Graham will be officially fired Monday after being told by athletic director Jim Sterk of his dismissal earlier this week.
However, the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Wash., reported Thursday that Graham will be retained for the fifth and final year of his contract.
Chris Schlatter came off the bench to lead the Cougars with a career-high 19 points. He scored 10 straight early in the second half to draw Washington State within five. Randy Green also had 19 points for the Cougars, who got no closer the rest of the way.
Ahead 57-52, UCLA outscored Washington State 21-7 for a 78-59 lead with 1:53 remaining.
Jason Kapono, who scored a career-high 44 points against the Cougars in January, scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half. He had nine in a row, including back-to-back 3-pointers, during UCLA's decisive run.
The Bruins took a 40-25 lead with an 11-0 run late in the first half before the Cougars scored the final five points to trail 40-30 at the break.
Entire sections of the upper balcony at Pauley were nearly empty at a game attended by 6,619. The Bruins have averaged 8,453 at home this season, which is among the lowest ever.