UCLA sophomore forward Reeves Nelson and freshman center Joshua Smith returned to practice today. Nelson sprained his ankle against Stanford and Smith suffered a head injury early in the Cal game.
Nelson did not participate in contact drills today while Smith had some contact drills. Both players are listed as day-to-day and will their participation for the Arizona game will be a game time decision.
Having both players back at practice is a good thing for the Bruins as they need the bodies to practice effectively. They weren't able to have contact until today. They have been doing a lot of shooting and other things.
If Nelson can play, he, Joshua Smith and Anthony Stover will share the guarding duties on Wildcat standout, Derrick Williams.
UCLA head coach, Ben Howland said that Arizona junior guard, Kyle Fogg has been a pain for the Bruins. He has his career high point totals against the Bruins and play solidly against them. Malcolm Lee will draw the assignment on defense.
Howland also mentioned that sophomore forward Solomon Hill and junior forward Jesse Perry are playing well. The Bruin head coach stated that he thinks Williams is one of the best players in the country. Williams reminds Howland of New Orleans Hornet forward and former Xavier standout, David West.
The Wildcats are an extremely athletic team. They may not be a 6-10, 6-11 type team, but they a re filled with athletes and they go 10 deep so they stay rested.
The only other team in the Pac 10 that compares to Arizona athletically is Washington.
On defense, Arizona is very much a man to man team. They pressure you and try to speed the game up on you. They like to ball screens and are very good in transition. Again all this goes back to their depth.
It allows to run and run some more when you are as deep as Arizona. When you are 10 deep, you can play rested players.
Regardless of the injury situation, Anthony Stover will get the start because he gives the the Bruins a solid defensive presence in the middle. Howland would like to see Stover take a charge instead of trying to block every but he is pleased overall with Stover's progress.
Howland thought that Stover played well against Cal and played 15 minutes against Stanford. He really helps the Bruins with intangibles because he's a good effort guy.
The Bruins only had eight turnovers and Tyler Honeycutt, who has found his stroke, only had one turnover and did a better job in that department. The whole team did better and that will have to continue if the Bruins are going to extend their winning streak in tough venues on the road.
The Bruins will be in the McKale arena on Thursday in one of UCLA's biggest games of the year. McKale always has good crowds and gives the Wildcats a good home court advantage where Arizona has not lost all season.
One of the reasons that this game looms large is a win against Arizona will down the road if the Bruins make it to the tourney. Though we are getting ahead of ourselves, a win would help UCLA's cause since Arizona is a top 20 team in the RPI department.
What makes this game and a win even bigger in the RPI department is the loss to Montana in December.