RALEIGH, N.C. -- As he entered the playing floor of Reynolds Coliseum last night, a familiar roar of "Googs, Googs" began to fill the arena. Former North Carolina State standout Tom Gugliotta had come home in a Washington Bullets uniform, and the fans were more than willing to show their appreciation to one of the school's all-time players.
Gugliotta responded as he did so many times in his Wolfpack days, contributing nine fourth-quarter points that helped the Bullets to their first preseason victory, 98-97, over the Milwaukee Bucks. It also gave the crowd of 5,131 something to cheer in an otherwise lackluster preseason game.
Gugliotta finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds, a performance that recalled his four years with N.C. State where he was one of three players in school history with more than 1,500 points and 800 rebounds.
"It feels great," said Gugliotta, who, at halftime, was presented with a frame containing his N.C. State and Washington jerseys. "Sure, this was a special day. But I wanted to play within myself. It was important that we played collectively well."
The Bullets did, at least in the fourth quarter. Guard Rex Chapman led the team in scoring for the third straight game, scoring 24 in 40 minutes. Nine of those points came late in the fourth quarter, with the last three coming on a three-pointer from the side that gave Washington a 93-89 lead.
Milwaukee, which led by as many as 11 in the first half, closed to 95-94 after Todd Day hit a three-pointer with less than a minute left. But Kevin Duckworth hit a short jumper with 11.2 seconds left, and Calbert Cheaney followed with a free throw for a 98-94 lead that left Ken Norman's three-pointer with time running out meaningless.
"Our guys have played enough games to know it was just going to be a matter of time," Washington coach Wes Unseld said of the first preseason victory.
It sure didn't appear that way in the first half when the Bucks appeared to have an open invitation to the basket, scoring nine of their 12 first-quarter field goals from the lane.
Washington got its biggest first-half lift from its biggest player, 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan. While playing the entire second quarter, Muresan scored all six of his points and grabbed seven of his eight rebounds, which helped the Bullets stay within 51-45 at the half.
"I think he gave them some quality minutes," Milwaukee coach Mike Dunleavy said. "I think he definitely has some skills."
When the fourth quarter rolled around, Gugliotta was set to contribute. His three-pointer from the top of the key with 8:37 left gave Washington its first lead, 81-79, since the first quarter. The Bullets led the rest of the way.
"It was just really exciting for me to play once again in front of the people at Reynolds," Gugliotta said. "I didn't want to be in a situation where I was forcing shots. I was glad I could contribute in the win."
NOTES: The cast on the right foot of F Larry Stewart was removed yesterday. Stewart, who had surgery for a broken bone during the summer, may return in three weeks. . . . G LaBradford Smith, who separated his right shoulder almost two weeks ago, has been cleared to resume practice when the Bullets return home Sunday. . . . Chancellor Nichols, whose injured right hamstring kept him out most of the preseason, was given medical clearance by the club yesterday, then waived.