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Planning to Go All Out in Tournament

Times Staff Writer

To win the Pacific 10 Conference tournament, the conference-champion Bruins would have to play back-to-back-to-back games, a grueling three straight days of competition beginning Thursday at Staples Center.

But would they also lose in terms of fatigue and possible injury heading into the NCAA tournament the following week?

“No,” said UCLA guard Arron Afflalo. “We are a group of 20-year-olds on average. There shouldn’t be any such thing as being burned out for us. I know I take pride in myself and my body.”

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No disagreement from Ben Howland, Afflalo’s coach.

“I’m not worried about it at all,” Howland said. “Definitely a team with depth has a better chance playing back-to-back-to-back nights. It is hard. But with all the injuries we’ve had, we’ve developed a lot of the younger players more quickly. And therefore our depth is good right now.

“We want to win this tournament. We won the regular season, but it’s all about what you have done for me lately. You have to prove it all over again and that’s our goal. We’re not going to save ourselves for the NCAA tournament. Also, how we do in this tournament will play somewhat into our seeding for the NCAA tournament.”

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UCLA power forward Alfred Aboya has been forbidden from full participation in practice for several weeks because of a strained groin, but he hasn’t missed any games.

Howland is letting him practice this week, but doing so with trepidation.

“Alfred is the only player I have ever had that I tell not to go 100% when he’s hurt,” said Howland. “He knows only one speed. He wants to go hard all the time. So it’s kind of scary.”

The prognosis on center Lorenzo Mata, who is recovering from a broken leg suffered in mid-January, is not as promising.

“He was immobilized for a month,” Howland said. “It’s highly unlikely Lorenzo will be coming back to form any time soon.”


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