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Injured Farmar’s Status Uncertain

Times Staff Writer

Jordan Farmar is the Pacific 10 Conference leader in assists, averaging 6.3 per game. He is the unquestioned leader of the Bruins, the ignition switch on their offense and the first point of attack on defense.

Off to their best start (11-1) since their NCAA championship season in 1994-95, the 11th-ranked Bruins depend on Farmar’s legs to keep them running smoothly.

But right now, Farmar himself can’t run smoothly. And so his coach, Ben Howland, has a problem.

Farmar sprained his right ankle Thursday night against Stanford in the teams’ Pac-10 opener. He left the floor just more than three minutes into the second half and did not return.

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Howland says he won’t decide until pregame warmups whether Farmar will play today against California at Pauley Pavilion.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” Howland said.

Farmar was limping slightly Friday, according to Howland, but the UCLA coach said no additional medical tests were ordered because the injury was not considered to be as serious as the first time Farmar sprained that ankle.

That was Nov. 17 against Temple. Farmar sat out the next game, against Delaware State two days later, then returned the following week to play in UCLA’s final two games in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament even though the ankle wasn’t fully healed. An MRI exam showed he might have a stress fracture in the ankle. Farmar sat out a second game, against Albany, even though a second MRI showed he was suffering from nothing more serious than the sprain.

But, with the sprain flaring anew Thursday, Howland must now choose between giving Farmar time off to let the ankle heal fully or putting him back on the court and hoping the sophomore guard can play through his medical problem.

“We’ll tape him up before the game and see if he can push off at full speed,” said Howland.

For all their success in the win-loss column, the Bruins, even with Farmar, are seriously undermanned as they head into the heart of the conference schedule.

They have lost forward Cedric Bozeman, for at least several weeks and perhaps the entire season, because of torn cartilage in his left shoulder. And two senior centers, Michael Fey (sprained ankle) and Ryan Hollins (strained groin), are out of today’s game.

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That could be especially painful against a Golden Bear frontcourt that features 6-foot-8, 240-pound Leon Powe and 6-11, 235-pound DeVon Hardin in the starting lineup, with 6-10, 220-pound Rod Benson and 6-5, 240-pound Theo Robertson coming off the bench.

“They have a lot of guys inside who are tough to deal with,” Howland said. “I think they have the best big kids in the conference. And they have great balance. It’s not like, if you take out one guy, you are going to stop the team.”

*

TODAY

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vs. California, 1 p.m., FSNW2

Site -- Pauley Pavilion.

Radio -- 570.

Records -- UCLA 11-1 overall, 1-0 in Pacific 10 Conference; Cal 7-3, 1-0.

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Update -- After winning six in a row, the Golden Bears lost to Kansas and DePaul before returning to the win column against USC in Thursday’s Pac-10 opener. It has been tough for Cal to maintain any rhythm; today’s game is only its third over the last 20 days. Although he missed the Golden Bears’ first four games because of a stress fracture in his foot, senior forward Leon Powe is again the big man in both scoring (20.7 points) and rebounding (10.2).

Tickets -- (310) 825-2946.


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