SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- They were bashed at last season's end, bashed for the selfish play that earned them a first-round exit from the NCAA tourney. And as their summer passed, they came to realize clearly that they needed an attitude check. They discussed that among themselves, even held a players-only meeting about it.
And by the time they appeared to face Indiana in Friday's Tip-Off Classic, UCLA's Bruins assured one and all they were a different bunch in mind, though still the same in body.
Then they drove that point home impressively by rebounding from a sluggish start to rout second-ranked Indiana, 87-72. Forwards Tracy Murray and Don MacLean led 11th-rated UCLA with 21 and 18 points, respectively. But these were very much the new-look Bruins who did much more than merely depend on their traditional high scorers.
They made back-door passes, a maneuver they ignored last year in favor of forced shots. They hustled on defense, where Gerald Madkins and Mitchell Butler took turns holding Calbert Cheaney to eight points on 2-of-9 shooting. And, most important, they remained composed early and late, turning back the few Indiana flurries.
"I didn't know what to expect, to be honest with you, but I think we showed a lot of character," MacLean said. "This is a great win for us, but no one's going to remember it in January. But to get down and then come back and win, that's going to give us a lot of confidence."
Murray said: "We all set goals at a big meeting we had, and it was basically to play together and to play defense. We knew we always had the talent. It was just up to us to play together."
That had been their new year's resolution, and Friday it received its first test in the game's opening 11 minutes. UCLA struggled through that interlude, missing 10 of its first 14 shots and reeling to a 23-12 deficit.
Six months ago, when they were rife with jealousy, this would have been finger-pointing time for the Bruins. But they merely steeled themselves and went to work. Center Rodney Zimmerman rebounded his own miss, and then Butler followed a basket by impressive Indiana freshman Alan Henderson (team-high 20 points) with a 3-pointer.
That pulled UCLA within eight before its equal-opportunity offense manifested itself in all its splendor. Guard Darrick Martin (10 points) drove for a basket. Guard Shon Tarver (10 points) hit from down low. Murray nailed a three, Zimmerman made a foul shot, Tarver converted a three-point play, and suddenly, the game was tied at 28 with 5:36 left in the half.
The Hoosiers, in contrast, were in a freeze as deep as a February morning in Chicago. When Martin put the Bruins up 34-32 two minutes later, they had a lead they would never lose.
"Once we got up," MacLean said, "it gave us a lot of confidence, and we got rolling. It wasn't that they were playing that badly, but we were sky-high and they couldn't stop us. You could tell at halftime the team was more together. Everyone was so excited."
Their 48-36 halftime lead ballooned to 19 points in the opening minutes of the second half before they faced the only thing resembling a rally by the befuddled Hoosiers.
Henderson, Damon Bailey (18 points) and Eric Anderson (14 points) keyed it, but still missing in action were Cheaney and Greg Graham. One basket is all Cheaney managed in the half, and with 12:12 left in the game, Coach Bob Knight benched him for good. Two free throws is all Graham contributed in the second half, and at night's end he had taken but four shots and scored but four points.
Yet the Hoosiers still lingered, pulling to within 11 on an Anderson jumper at 8:04. But then Murray exploded for a pair of free throws, a 3 from the right corner and a thunderous dunk that put the Bruins up 78-62 with six minutes left. That effectively ended it, and soon Knight was saying, "This is an indication to us that we're not capable of playing against a real good team at this point.
"The last two times we played, against Kansas in the tournament (where they lost 83-65) and against these people tonight, we were never in position in the second half to win the ballgame. We have enough things we're not doing to provide real problems for us."
What things specifically, someone shouted at him.
"I don't have time to go into all the things; I want to get home tonight," Knight finally said, getting the only laugh he received on his long Friday night.