Michigan lost in overtime by a point to Pacific 10 Conference favorite Arizona and it gave the Wolverines hope they were ready to move ahead from the turmoil of the last three seasons, when they suffered through NCAA probation and scholarship losses.
But bandages and masking tape hold together the Wolverine team UCLA will play host to today at Pauley Pavilion. In 10 days earlier this month, four players -- three of them at least part-time starters -- suffered serious injuries. Junior wing Lester Abram will miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery, junior forward Graham Brown is out at least four weeks after having hernia surgery, junior guard Daniel Horton, who had played in 71 straight games, sprained his knee Dec. 5 and is out at least four weeks, and Dani Wahl hurt his elbow in practice and is out at least until the Big Ten season begins.
"That's a lot of hits to take," Coach Tommy Amaker said. "But we've just got to keep working."
UCLA hasn't been injury free either. Senior guard Cedric Bozeman is sitting out the season after suffering a knee injury in preseason practice and senior forward Dijon Thompson, who led the young Bruins in scoring and rebounding, re-injured a cut on his shooting hand, which required 13 stitches and kept Thompson out of UCLA's last-second win over Pepperdine last Saturday. He may play some today with his injured fingers taped together.
But the injuries have given Coach Ben Howland a chance to showcase his four freshmen, and they are responding.
One of them, guard Jordan Farmar, scored a career-high 25 points against Pepperdine, including nine of UCLA's final 11 points in a performance that earned him Pac-10 player-of-the-week honors. Another, Josh Shipp, who started in place of Thompson, had 15 points and 12 rebounds and cemented Howland's opinion that Shipp has good "basketball instincts" that allow him to be around the ball.
One of the constants of this season for the Bruins has been stellar free-throw shooting. They are making almost 75% from the line. Key performers are doing better, Farmar at 92%, which is third in the Pac-10, and Thompson at 88%. Seven-foot center Michael Fey, who Howland hopes becomes aggressive enough to earn more free throws, is 14 of 18 from the line.
"That's a good strength to have," Howland said. "It's one we should have."
vs. Michigan, 2 p.m., Channel 2
Site -- Pauley Pavilion.
Radio -- XTRA 690/1150.
Records -- Michigan 6-4, UCLA 5-1.
Update -- Michigan is coming off perhaps its worst loss of the season so far, a 63-52 beating by Boston University that ended a 10-game Wolverine home winning streak. Michigan has won its last two games against the Bruins, including an 81-76 victory at Pauley in 2002. This is the final home game for UCLA until Jan. 6, when Washington State arrives. The Bruins will retire the jersey of Gail Goodrich in a pregame ceremony.
Tickets -- (310) 825-2946.