UCLA is off to a 5-0 start despite not having preseason All-American Darren Collison.
The second-ranked Bruins expect to be without Collison for one final game on Friday night when they meet Yale in the opener of a three-game homestand.
Collison has yet to see action this season due to a sprained left ankle. He averaged 12.7 points and a team-high 5.7 assists to help the Bruins reach a second straight Final Four in 2006-07.
UCLA has indicated that Collison could return Wednesday against George Washington, the second game of this homestand which concludes with a matchup against No. 15 Texas on Dec. 2.
Russell Westbrook has started all five games in place of Collison, and has been more than adequate with an assist-to-turnover ratio better than 2-to-1. Westbrook, a sophomore, is also third on the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game.
The Bruins are also unbeaten thanks to the play of star freshman Kevin Love. The 6-foot-10 center posted his third double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds in a 68-63 win over No. 10 Michigan State on Tuesday in the championship game of the CBE Classic.
“That’s an everyday thing for me,” said Love about his rebounding. “If we’re going to be a great team, we’re all going to have bang down low.”
While Love is leading UCLA in scoring (20.2) and rebounding (11.6), the Bruins are also getting solid play from Josh Shipp. The senior swingman is averaging 16.2 points while shooting nearly 53 percent and is coming off back-to-back 18-point performances.
Love and Shipp helped the Bruins come back against the Spartans after trailing by as many as 13 points.
“I’m really proud of our toughness mentally,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “The one thing about our team is they never give up. They never give up, ever and that’s a sign of mentally-tough kids.”
UCLA has won 23 straight at home since a 60-56 loss to West Virginia on Jan. 21, 2006. The Bruins started 14-0 last season before falling 68-66 at then-No. 16 Oregon on Jan. 6.
Yale (1-2) is completing a two-game West Coast trip after a 72-61 loss at Stanford on Tuesday. The road trip was scheduled in part because of the presence of California natives Eric Flato and Travis Pinick on the roster.
Flato, the team’s leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, hails from Piedmont and had plenty of friends and family on hand for the game at Stanford. The preseason Ivy League player of the year scored a season-high 22 points in the loss.
“It was fun,” Flato said. “It was nice seeing my family, and a lot of my extended family was able to come to the game.”
The Bulldogs spent Thanksgiving in Orange County at the home of Pinick, a junior reserve who averages 7.7 points.
UCLA won 95-65 on Dec. 26, 1963 in the only previous meeting with Yale.