College Basketball: UCLA at Arizona State – UCLA Favored
The fifth-ranked Bruins hope to have two injured players back Thursday as they try to bounce back from a tough loss when they visit Arizona State.
UCLA (21-3, 10-2) has won five straight over the Sun Devils (6-18, 0-13) and 31 of the last 36 meetings, including a 60-50 victory at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 18.
The Bruins enter Thursday’s rematch, however, with Darren Collison and Lorenzo Mata battling injuries, and the team coming off a 70-65 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.
"This game has me very nervous," coach Ben Howland said.
Collison knows Arizona State’s winless conference record is a bit misleading. Half of the Sun Devils’ games have been decided by five or fewer points – including the last four.
"They have nothing to lose," he said. "ASU is still a good team. They brought everyone down to the wire."
Collison missed Saturday’s game because of a sore shoulder, while Mata sat out the second half due to a sore hip. Both starters are hoping to play Thursday. Although Mata, who averages 6.1 points and 5.2 rebounds, said he’s feeling better, Collison admitted his injury hasn’t completely healed.
The sophomore guard, who is third on the team with 13.0 points per game, injured his left shoulder in the second half of last Wednesday’s 70-65 win over Southern California. Though Collison spent 20 minutes shooting on Tuesday, he did not face any contact during practice.
"I can’t really extend my left arm all the way, but they said I shot the ball pretty well," he said. "I’m not going to be 100 percent Thursday, but if I’m near 100 percent, then I’m going to feel comfortable playing."
If Collison is not ready, he’s confident Russell Westbrook will be able to step in and contribute despite the freshman’s rough debut as a starter. Westbrook committed three turnovers and scored just four points on 1-of-11 shooting Saturday while the Bruins shot 38.7 percent from the field.
"I have faith in Russell if he does get that opportunity, he’s going to be successful," Collison said. "I told him to keep his head up. It was a team thing. We all played bad."
This is a crucial stretch for UCLA, which will play its third straight road game on Saturday at No. 19 Arizona. The team is battling Washington State for first place in the Pac-10, with a matchup against the Cougars still to be played on March 1 in Pullman, Wash.
"We’re in crunch time now," said Howland, whose team is 3-3 in true road games.
Arizona State is coming off a 59-55 loss to Oregon State on Saturday. The lead changed six times in the second half before the Beavers went on a 7-0 run that put the Sun Devils away.
The team has lost a school-record 14 straight overall – the previous worst for the program was an 11-game skid – since beating North Carolina A&T on Dec. 21.
"It’s very difficult," forward Allen Morill said. "I can’t even explain how I am feeling right now because I’ve never felt like this. This is the most difficult time of my career."
Morill was one of only two Sun Devil players to score in double figures against Oregon State with 10 points. Leading scorer Christin Polk was the other with 12.
Arizona State is averaging only 59.3 points per game, nearly five fewer than any other team in the Pac-10.
by: Marc Young – theSpread.com – Email Us
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