Bruins could be looking across town for help
A hearty “Fight on” could emanate from Westwood over the next two weeks.
UCLA’s loss to California on Sunday puts the Bruins in the awkward position of possibly needing help from crosstown rival USC to win the Pacific 10 Conference regular-season championship.
At 10-4 in the Pac-10, UCLA trails first-place Arizona (12-2) by two games with four remaining. The teams could be tied by the end of the week if the Trojans beat Arizona on Thursday at the Galen Center and the Bruins defeat last-place Arizona State on Thursday and then the Wildcats on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
“If Arizona takes a loss and we continue to get back on track and get wins, we can win it,” UCLA junior guard Lazeric Jones said Tuesday.
UCLA could also use USC’s help in fending off third-place Washington (10-5), which will play host to both schools next week.
Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson said the Bruins (19-8 overall) weren’t nervous about their NCAA tournament chances, if only because they weren’t thinking about them.
“We’re just trying to focus on Arizona State and then Arizona,” Nelson said. “We’re still going to try and do the best we can in the Pac-10 because if we do that it will help our NCAA seed, so it’s one before the other.”
Just because UCLA’s roster includes no seniors doesn’t mean a goodbye or two won’t be in order this week.
The Bruins’ game against Arizona on Saturday could be the final home game for Nelson and fellow sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt, junior guard Malcolm Lee and/or freshman center Joshua Smith, who all must decide whether to return next season or declare for the NBA draft.
“I haven’t even started thinking about the pros, to tell you the truth,” Lee said.
Asked what were the chances Saturday would be his final home game, Honeycutt said, “I don’t know.” Smith was not made available to the media Tuesday, and Nelson said he would sit down with his parents and Howland after the season to assess his future.
If nothing else, those playing in their final home game will look snazzy. UCLA will wear retro uniforms resembling ones worn by the 1963-64 Bruins, the first team to win a national title under the late John Wooden. Short-shorts aren’t part of the ensemble.
“I think they’re going to be up-to-date length,” Lee said.
Honeycutt has committed 18 turnovers in his last three games and has 86 for the season, second-most in the Pac-10 behind Washington State guard Klay Thompson’s 97. “He’s just got to be focused on it and take better care of the ball, take less risk with some of his passes,” said UCLA Coach Ben Howland, adding that he would like to see Honeycutt shoot more and pass less. . . . Jones has taken 5.2 shots per game since injuring his left wrist against USC on Feb. 2, a significant dip from the 9.7 shots he had averaged over the previous six games. “I’m still trying to get used to playing with it,” he said, “so I don’t want to try to do too much.”
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