Even with preseason All-American Darren Collison still nursing an injury, UCLA should be fine for the immediate future.
The second-ranked Bruins will again be forced to play without their top player as they host Youngstown State to open the CBE Classic on Monday.
With Collison out due to a sprained knee, UCLA won 69-48 over Portland State in its season opener Friday. The 6-foot Collison, who averaged 12.7 points and 5.7 assists last season, will not see the court for the first time in 2007-08 until possibly next week.
He’s doing better. He will be out for sure on Monday and Tuesday,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
The Bruins shouldn’t have too much trouble getting by over the next two days as they continue their quest to become the first team since Michigan State (1999-2001) to make three consecutive Final Four appearances.
A win Monday and UCLA would face the winner of the Weber State-Cal State-San Bernadino matchup on Tuesday.
Heralded 6-foot-10 freshman Kevin Love had 22 points and 13 rebounds in a stellar debut Friday, while junior guard Josh Shipp added 18 for the Bruins, who shot 51.1 percent (24-for-47) from the field.
Love scored the second-most points by a UCLA freshman in his debut and pulled down the most rebounds in school history for a first-year player in his first game.
“I’m not here for records,” said Love, last season’s national high school player of the year. “My teammates put me in the right position to score.”
While Love is expected to make an impact all season for the Bruins, upperclassmen like Shipp and forwards Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Lorenzo Mata-Real should also be able to carry the load in Collison’s absence. Sophomore Russell Westbrook, who scored 10 points Friday, and junior guard Alfred Aboya are also expected to be key contributors.
“Provided we stay healthy, we have a chance to have a really good year,” Howland said.
UCLA looks to win its 22nd straight home game since a 60-56 loss to then-No. 12 West Virginia on Jan. 21, 2006.
The Penguins, who are playing UCLA for the first time, will have a tough task trying to win their second straight season opener. Youngstown State went 14-17 last season, but exceeded its win total of 12 from the previous two seasons.
Youngstown State, though, lost Quin Humphrey and Keston Roberts - its top scorers from last season who combined to average 35 points - so it will look to seniors Byron Davis and John Barber.
Davis averaged 8.6 points and 3.9 assists in 2006-07, while Barber averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds.
“When you have good players, they graduate and then good players take their spots,” Penguins coach Jerry Slocum said. “We’ve got some very good basketball players here. We’re excited about their development and where they’re going to be.”
Youngstown State is 1-18 against ranked opponents, with the lone win 68-57 over then-No. 19 La Salle on Feb. 5, 1952.