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Jeff Eisenberg

Wooden's great-grandson gives Pauley Pavilion fitting sendoff

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

UCLA could not have scripted a more fitting finish to the final game at Pauley Pavilion before the venerable arena closes for a year to undergo renovations.

Not only did the Bruins roll to a 71-49 thrashing of old rival Arizona to tie the Wildcats atop the Pac-10 standings, John Wooden's great grandson Tyler Trapani also serendipitously scored UCLA's final bucket.

When fellow walk-on Jack Haley Jr. airballed a 3-point attempt with 25 seconds left in Saturday's game, Trapani was in the right place in the right time underneath the rim to put it back in for a layup. It was the first basket of the season for Trapani, who has appeared in just three games all season.

"When I got the ball, it was instinct to put it back up,'' Trapani told reporters after the game. "I knew I was close to the basket so I put it back up as fast as I could.''

UCLA coach Ben Howland has seldom shown much emotion in front of the media during his eight seasons in Westwood, so it was heart-warming to see him fighting back tears while talking about Trapani's basket during his postgame press conference. Howland admitted as soon as Trapani's layup fell through the rim, his mind drifted to Wooden, who passed away a few months shy of his 100th birthday last summer.

"It was so fitting to have Tyler Trapani, John Wooden's great-grandson, make the last shot in the history of this building, the building he opened," Howland said. "We wanted him to shoot it. We told the kids, 'Get it to Tyler, get it to Tyler.' And it fell right in his hands. So I mean there's something going on there. I really believe it."

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