Ri­valry be­tween UCLA, Notre Dame gets re­boot

Sto­ried se­ries in­cludes the Fight­ing Ir­ish’s streak-break­ing 1974 vic­tory over Bru­ins.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - [email protected]­times.com Twit­ter: @latb­bolch By Ben Bolch

Con­sider it an early Christ­mas present for tra­di­tion­al­ists who rue the ef­fects of con­fer­ence re­align­ment.

UCLA ver­sus Notre Dame, a ri­valry that used to be as sa­vory as hol­i­day ham, will be re­newed. The teams were part of each other’s sched­ules from 1966 to 1995, play­ing twice a sea­son over one 13-year stretch.

Then along came the Grinch who stole the se­ries, other­wise known as the Big East Con­fer­ence. Notre Dame’s move away from be­ing an in­de­pen­dent, along with the de­sire of both schools to sched­ule other high-pro­file op­po­nents, led to the demise of the ri­valry.

When the teams meet Satur­day night at Pauley Pavil­ion, it will be for only the fifth time since 1995. UCLA coach Steve Al­ford said he wanted the Fight­ing Ir­ish back on the sched­ule for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, in­clud­ing the rich his­tory of the ri­valry.

Al­ford also men­tioned seek­ing a good fit for a home­and-home se­ries that in­volved travel across the coun­try. Notre Dame, now in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence, qual­i­fies be­cause it’s a ma­jor-con­fer­ence op­po­nent that bears stylis­tic sim­i­lar­i­ties to UCLA that go be­yond the teams’ iden­ti­cal 6-2 records. Like the Bru­ins, the Fight­ing Ir­ish rely on mo­tion of­fense and pri­mar­ily manto-man-de­fense.

“We’ll get a good lit­mus test of where we are,” Al­ford said.

UCLA sopho­more guard Chris Smith also got a pop quiz when he spoke with re­porters this week.

When Smith brought up Notre Dame hav­ing ended UCLA’s win­ning streak that still stands as the long­est in the his­tory of men’s col­lege bas­ket­ball, he was asked how many games it was.

“Eighty-eight, right?” Smith said with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

Phew. He was cor­rect. The Bru­ins’ record streak was, amaz­ingly, book­ended by de­feats to the Fight­ing Ir­ish, in­clud­ing a 71-70 set­back on Jan. 19, 1974, that marked UCLA’s first loss in nearly three years. Along the way, the Bru­ins had bro­ken the pre­vi­ous record of 60 con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries with a win in South Bend, Ind.

UCLA leads the se­ries 2820, though Notre Dame won the last meet­ing in De­cem­ber 2009 on the Fight­ing Ir­ish’s home court.

Al­ford grew up with a work­ing knowl­edge of UCLA-Notre Dame, hav­ing been a part of In­di­ana-Notre Dame in the 1980s as a star shoot­ing guard for the Hoosiers.

“When you look at end­ing a streak and a week later, you know, aveng­ing that, you pay at­ten­tion to that and you see that, ” Al­ford said, re­fer­ring to the Bru­ins bash­ing the Fight­ing Ir­ish by 19 points at Pauley Pavil­ion on Jan. 26, 1974.

Al­ford said he didn’t ex­pect his play­ers to have as much of a sense of the ri­valry given the re­al­i­ties of their gen­er­a­tion.

“If it doesn’t show up on a video game,” Al­ford said, “then they may strug­gle know­ing the his­tory of those things.”

The cur­rent Bru­ins may not rec­og­nize the names Austin Carr and Dig­ger Phelps, but sev­eral are fa­mil­iar with at least one Notre Dame player, hav­ing ei­ther played against or watched se­nior guard Rex Pflueger when he starred for Mater Dei High.

Pflueger pre­ceded UCLA fresh­man guard Jules Bernard on the same club team, the Compton Magic.

“I know a lit­tle bit about his game,” Bernard said of a player av­er­ag­ing 7.5 points and a team-lead­ing 3.6 as­sists. “He can shoot pretty well, he has pretty good ath­leti­cism.”

The feel­ing-out be­tween UCLA and Notre Dame won’t end this week­end; the teams are sched­uled to play again next sea­son in South Bend. But first could come a throw­back feel Satur­day, at least in terms of at­mos­phere.

“I as­sume it’s go­ing to be a very packed game,” Bernard said, “so we’re just go­ing to try to show what we can do.”

TONIGHT

VS. NOTRE DAME When: 7:30. Where: Pauley Pavil­ion. On the air: TV: ESPN2; Ra­dio: 1150. Up­date: Junior guard T.J. Gibbs is av­er­ag­ing a teamhigh 14.3 points for the Fight­ing Ir­ish . ... Notre Dame has made only 31.1% of its three­p­oint­ers.

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