UCLA will face USC without top forwards Cody Riley, Jalen Hill
Already facing an epic challenge going against one of the nation’s top big men in USC’s Evan Mobley, UCLA headed into its rivalry game against the Trojans on Saturday night at the Galen Center needing to find especially some creative solutions.
The No. 21 Bruins were missing their top two big men after junior forward Cody Riley sprained his right ankle in practice and junior forward Jalen Hill was sitting out the game because of what an athletic department spokesman described as personal reasons.
That left UCLA with only two options in the post: Kenneth Nwuba, a seldom-used redshirt sophomore, and Mac Etienne, who would have been playing in prep school had the COVID-19 pandemic not prompted him to head to UCLA earlier than expected. Etienne has not played this season after arriving on campus in January and rounding into form.
Evan Mobley was on the sidelines for the last epic showdown between USC and UCLA. The Trojans are hoping for another upset against the No. 21 Bruins.
Nwuba had played in only five games before Saturday, going scoreless while averaging 4.4 minutes per appearance. He played nine effective minutes in a victory over Arizona, helping his team mostly on the defensive end while the Bruins went on a 16-2 run.
Riley is a candidate for the Pac-12 Conference’s most improved player. He has started every game and become a reliable low-post threat, averaging 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Hill has struggled for much of the season after returning from tendinitis in his right knee that forced him to miss the first two games. He has averaged 6.5 points and 5.9 rebounds while exclusively coming off the bench.
Riley watched warmups Saturday with his right foot encased in a protective walking boot; Hill did not appear to be at the game. The absences of Riley and Hill left the Bruins in need of a new game plan going against Mobley, the USC freshman forward who might be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft.
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