Smallest Bruin Can Make Anyone Forget Big Country
The Big Dance has reached its Big Moment, so get yourself a Big Mac and a Big Gulp and a good seat in front of the Big Screen.
Big Country’s out, Big Nasty’s still in. Big Business is booming - $600 Final Four jackets at Nordstrom, $85 sweatshirts in the hotel lobbies.
The Big News? Big Jack’s here - Jack Nicholson, that is. Insta-fan. Heard him humming the UCLA fight song in the lavatory. Always been a Big Bruin Guy, that Jack.
And the Biggest Deal of this Big Show?
For a moment Saturday afternoon, the minicams parted to allow UCLA coach Jim Harrick and a few of his players a path to meet the press. But even that walk didn’t go unrecorded, for there was Ed O’Bannon - the Bruins’ Big Daddy - palming a Sony Handicam and backpedaling ahead of the group for some exclusive footage of the hero of UCLA’s 74-61 subduing of Oklahoma State.
“Here he is,” O’Bannon teased Tyus Edney. “Here’s the man.”
The man is 5-foot-10 and 152 pounds and, with due respect to Damon Stoudamire and Allen Iverson and Shawn Respert, the best guard in college basketball.
He showed it early with a wondrous reverse layup he must have stolen from the Wallendas, and he showed it late when he continually parried the Cowboys with daring drives at their 7-foot mountain, Bryant Reeves.
“You can’t guard the man,” insisted Edney’s teammate, Cameron Dollar. “Can’t be done. I know. I’ve tried.
“He’s taken this tournament over. All of us other guys, the sophomores and juniors and freshmen, we’re trying to push Ed and George (Zidek) and especially Tyus to another tax bracket. But he’s doing it by himself right now.”
This is not the whole truth, but it is nothing but truth. O’Bannon was somewhat less than his player-ofthe-year self, Zidek was preoccupied moshing with Reeves and UCLA’s heralded freshmen, Toby Bailey and J.R. Henderson, reverted to their callow ways. Only O’Bannon’s little brother Charles - himself something of a cipher to this point in the tournament - ran to better than form (7 of 9, 19 points).
So once again it was left to Edney not to let UCLA fold, as it was against Missouri two weeks back. This time, he was given 40 minutes instead of 4.8 seconds.
He did his best to settle the issue in the first half, capping an 11-0 UCLA run with the acrobatic flip over his head that somehow found net.
“I don’t know where it came from,” Edney said. “It’s playground when you’re growing up, and you kind of learn how to do shots like that. That’s the only way I could get the shot up, I remember.”
It gave UCLA a 20-11 lead - and more.
“When Tyus made that shot over his head,” said Ed O’Bannon, “I said to myself, ‘All it is is a basketball game.’ We’ve been here two days and all you hear about is the Final Four and the parties outside and you forget everybody’s here because of basketball to be played. And when that shot went up and in, it loosened everybody up.”
Maybe too loose. Edney hurt his wrist on the next OSU possession and took a 3-minute breather as UCLA squandered its lead. By half, it was tied. OSU led a couple of times after intermission - and three times in the last 4 minutes pulled within one or two.
Each time, it was Edney who answered on drives to the hoop - drawing a foul from Reeves for a threepoint play, finishing layups, converting free throws - as his defensive shadow, Andre Owens, flailed helplessly. When OSU’s Randy Rutherford threw up a desperation 3 after Edney’s last bucket, the Cowboys were officially out of ammo.
“I was just telling (Edney), ‘Take him, take him,”’ said Harrick, smiling, “because he’s hard to guard, fellows.”
That job now falls to Corey Beck and Clint McDaniel of Arkansas, who did a pretty fair number on Donald Williams and Jeff McInnis in the second half of his team’s K.O. of Carolina in the other semi.
“It’s time people start respecting him,” said Beck, “because he’s a great player - doesn’t matter how small he is.”
So what is it about Edney that worries him?
“Nothing,” Beck said, reversing field. “He’s a great player, but as far as changing our game around just to hold down Tyus - well, me and McDaniel, we’ll shut all that noise up.”
Good luck. Big Little makes a Big Noise.