UCLA seems to finally have the upper hand on Southern California. Injuries, however, may prevent the Bruins from continuing their recent success against their crosstown rival.
Short-handed UCLA (14-3, 4-2 Pac-10) looks for its third straight win over the Trojans (12-5, 3-3) when the teams meet on Wednesday.
The 18th-ranked Bruins have won two in a row over USC after dropping four straight and five of the previous six meetings in the rivalry. UCLA, though, comes into this contest banged up.
Starting center Lorenzo Mata injured his right knee in a 63-61 win over Washington State on Jan. 12. The 6-foot-8 sophomore, averaging 4.8 points and 4.9 rebounds, is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
On Saturday, freshman forward Alfred Aboya suffered a knee sprain in UCLA’s 69-65 loss to No. 10 Washington. Aboya, who had surgery on both of his knees before the season, will undergo tests this weekend.
The Bruins have been without their No. 3 scorer, senior starter Cedric Bozeman, since he tore cartilage in his left shoulder at practice on Dec. 27. He could be out for the season.
Michael Fey has played in only eight games because of a sprained ankle, and Jordan Farmar and Ryan Hollins have also missed time. But despite the injuries, UCLA is in first place in the Pac-10.
“In competitive athletics, you have to deal with the next set of circumstances,” Bruins coach Ben Howland said. “There’s always adversity; we have had a lot more than our fair share. But you just have to fight through it. That’s just the way it is.”
USC snapped a two-game skid with a 71-66 win over Washington State on Saturday. Sophomore forward Nick Young scored a career-high 32 points and guard Gabe Pruitt added 20 as the Trojans equaled their victory total from last season.
Young made 10 of 17 shots, including three of four from 3-point range, and nine of 12 free throws.
USC coach Tim Floyd said Young keeps getting better because he’s been attacking the basket more.
“The first two or three weeks of the season was a highlight reel,” Floyd said. “He wasn’t getting himself to the line. But he’s playing more aggressively in terms of trying to get to the rim. Consequently, he’s getting fouled.”
Young (17.3 points per game), Pruitt (16.7) and Lodrick Stewart (12.6) account for 66.7 percent of the Trojans’ scoring.
Pruitt is 11-for-20 from 3-point range in the last two games, and has made at least five 3s in the last four contests.