UCLA

UCLA Bruins' Kevon Looney knows he faces a tough challenge

Forward Kevon Looney again will wear a mask to protect facial fracture when UCLA faces SMU in NCAA tournament

Kevon Looney has left the medical details of his facial injury to his doctors.

"They just told me something's wrong with my face," Looney said.

He is more concerned with how the injury, which has forced him to wear a mask, will affect his play. Looney is wondering if he will be just as stiff and timid in UCLA's NCAA tournament opener Thursday against Southern Methodist as he was against Arizona last Friday.

The Bruins need Looney at full strength in their South Regional game at Louisville, Ky. SMU outrebounds opponents by almost seven per game, and Looney is the Bruins' best rebounder. The 6-foot-8 freshman averages 11.8 points and 9.2 rebounds and is projected as a lottery pick in the next NBA draft.

Looney took an arm to his left cheek during a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal game against USC. His face was bleeding and swollen, and he was diagnosed with a facial fracture.

Looney played the next night against Arizona with the mask, and he said he was never fully comfortable. He finished with five points and four rebounds in 30 minutes.

"It was hard for me to see," Looney said after the game. "I definitely couldn't really see on defense. I only could see what was in front of me, so I had to do a lot of turning and twisting I wasn't used to doing. And on offense, I could only see the basket and what's in front of me. It really affected me."

Looney was advised not to get hit in the face again, so he said he was hesitant to dive for loose balls or go through traffic in the lane.

Looney will wear the mask against SMU. UCLA Coach Steve Alford said Looney should get better at playing with the mask as he practices with it.

He noted that Looney had just two hours with the mask to prepare for the Arizona game.

"Most guys probably wouldn't have even played in that game," Alford said.

Alford knows Moore

Alford on Sunday said he didn't know much about SMU, but he did know about its offensive leader, Nic Moore.

They have a history.

Alford said he recruited Moore when he was coaching at New Mexico. The coach also noted Moore, like Alford, is a Hoosier.

"He's from Warsaw, Indiana," Alford said. Warsaw is about a two-hour drive north of Alford's hometown of New Castle.

Moore, who is 5 feet 9, is the Mustangs' leading scorer. He averages 14.2 points and 5.2 assists per game and is shooting 40.8% from three-point range.

UCLA will hope Moore's recent cold streak continues. In March, he has made 18 of his 66 shots (27.3%).

zach.helfand@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
73°