UCLA readies for USC; injuries to key players make depth an issue
Number crunching with UCLA basketball Coach Ben Howland currently involves a couple of unknowns — two of the team’s top three scorers.
Forward Travis Wear has already missed one game because of a concussion and hasn’t been cleared to play Wednesday night against USC at Pauley Pavilion.
“Travis was not able to do any contact [Tuesday], but he ran up and down and did a bunch of shooting,” Howland said. “I anticipate he’ll be cleared to play because he had no symptoms.”
Top scorer Shabazz Muhammad was missing entirely from practice, having been overwhelmed by flu symptoms that included a fever of 101.
“I had one of my best games in high school ever with a fever, that’s what I’ll tell him,” Howland said. “He won’t have a fever tomorrow; at least I hope not.”
USC has a record of 8-13 overall, 3-5 in Pac-12 Conference play, with a lineup in which eight full-time players average at least 12 minutes a game. UCLA is 16-5 overall, 6-2 in conference games.
UCLA had 12 scholarship players heading into this school year, including the little-used David Brown. That was trimmed to 11 when center Anthony Stover flunked out. Center Joshua Smith and guard Tyler Lamb then left the team soon after the season began.
The Bruins will not know whether they will have a six- or eight-man rotation for the USC game until the Muhammad-Wear medical reports. Depth became an issue during a two-game swing in Arizona last week. The Bruins beat sixth-ranked Arizona on Thursday, playing the second half without Wear. Less than 48 hours later, UCLA looked gassed in a loss to Arizona State.
“We were coming off a game that was so tough physically, that we invested so much into it, that we just kind of just left it all out there on the court,” said forward David Wear, Travis’ twin brother.
Said Howland: “You could tell we were spent.”
Freshman guard Kyle Anderson doesn’t think fatigue should be a problem. “We’re young, gifted athletes,” he said. “Playing a certain amount of minutes seems like a big deal, but it is really what we’re trained for.”
The Bruins’ usual eight-man rotation includes freshman center Tony Parker, who averages only seven minutes per game. The Bruins’ other three freshmen — Muhammad, Anderson and Jordan Adams — average 29 minutes. Point guard Larry Drew II is averaging nearly 35 minutes per game.
“When Josh and Tyler left, we knew it was going to be like this,” Adams said. “Everyone was going to have to step up.”
David Wear picked up more time when his brother was injured. He had a strong game against Arizona, with 15 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. Against Arizona State, he looked fatigued, making only two of 12 shots and scoring five points in 34 minutes.
Wear wasn’t the only one who seemed overextended. Parker had played no more than six minutes in a month. He logged 10 against Arizona, scoring six key points. He was scoreless in 13 minutes against Arizona State.
“Hopefully Shabazz will be able to go and be effective,” Howland said. “And Travis will be back and will be effective.”
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