UCLA has one more home game to tune up for its trip to New York, and a few more days to get healthier for it.
The 18th-ranked Bruins, already plagued by injuries, play what should be little more than a warm-up for the Preseason NIT semifinals as Delaware State visits Pauley Pavilion on Saturday.
This is the third consecutive home game to open the season for UCLA (2-0) following wins over New Mexico State and Temple in the first two rounds of the Preseason NIT. The Bruins’ semifinal game at Madison Square Garden will be Wednesday against No. 12 Memphis, and they’ll face top-ranked Duke or Drexel in the consolation or championship game on Friday.
“I’ve never been to New York,” said Bruins senior Cedric Bozeman, who had 11 points and nine rebounds in Thursday’s 54-47 win over Temple. “The only thing I know about New York is big buildings and a nice city.”
Coach Ben Howland just hopes his Bruins are healthier by the time they get there.
Starting point guard Jordan Farmar and center Michael Fey will miss Saturday’s game due to injuries suffered in the win over Temple.
Farmar, averaging 11.0 points, has a sprained ankle and though X-rays were negative, he was on crutches and wearing a walking boot Friday. Fey, who started 27 of 29 games last season, sprained and bruised his left shoulder. He had missed almost a month of practice with a severe groin strain.
“Their status will be on a day-to-day basis for the next few days, but we certainly hope to have them healthy and ready to play when we face Memphis in New York City on Wednesday,” Howland said.
UCLA already has been missing forward Josh Shipp, who is recovering from right hip surgery, and freshman Alfred Aboya, who had left knee surgery.
The first two games have seen sophomore guard Arron Afflalo stand out. He scored a career-high 23 points in the Bruins’ 83-70 victory over New Mexico State on Tuesday, and made four 3-pointers en route to his 18 points in Thursday’s win.
Howland will be leaning on Afflalo and his fellow underclassmen to produce in a relatively young Bruins attack this season.
Freshman Darren Collison could replace Farmar and join Afflalo in the starting backcourt for this game. Another freshman guard, Michael Roll, has been averaging 17.0 minutes off the bench, and freshman forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute leads the team with 9.0 rebounds per game.
“They were a little jittery,” Farmar said of the freshmen. “That’s one thing I told them. There’s going to be ups and downs. There was for me.”
Delaware State tips off its sixth season under coach Greg Jackson after capping 2004-05 with the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, and a closer-than-anticipated 57-46 loss to top-seeded Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
It was the program’s first ever NCAA tournament berth.
The Hornets return six players from last season’s 19-14 squad, including leading scorer and 2005 MEAC tournament MVP Jahsha Bluntt (13.6 ppg).