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UCLA REPORT

Plenty of seats are available

December 17, 2006|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

In this stretch of Pauley Pavilion games that has included Long Beach State, UC Riverside, Cal State Fullerton, Oakland (Mich.) and, this Tuesday night, Sam Houston State, at least a third of the 12,000-seat arena has been empty.

While Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said Saturday he is "pleased" with ticket sales, he wrinkled his face in answer to a question about whether he was pleased with the number of people in the seats.

Junior guard Arron Afflalo said the empty spaces in the stands, even for a UCLA team that's undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation, is just part of the Los Angeles package.

"It's Saturday, it's raining outside, it's not solely a college town here," Afflalo said. "There's some benefits and also some downsides to playing here."

UCLA beat Oakland, 74-53, a plodding win that drew little emotion from the announced crowd of 8,612. Late in the first half the Bruins led only 21-19 over a team that had lost, 72-46, to Miami of Ohio and 91-57 to Arkansas in the previous week.

Coach Ben Howland said the silence from Pauley fans "had nothing to do with that. People are playing us tough. There isn't a huge disparity in college basketball. It's going to be a grind every night."

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Sophomore Michael Roll, who had scored only five points in the three previous games, had eight Saturday. "I'm playing with more confidence every game," he said. "It comes from having played with these guys all summer. We have a camaraderie this year that's better than last year."

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Freshman Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison's backup at point guard, left the game limping after missing a layup with about three minutes left. Westbrook had his left ankle examined. Howland said after the game that he didn't know the extent of the injury.

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Nikola Dragovic, the 6-foot-8 freshman from Serbia who is serving a 10-game NCAA suspension because some members of his club team Mega Ishrana were being paid, was on the court 90 minutes before the game. Assistant coaches Donny Daniels and Scott Garson had Dragovic doing dribbling drills while guarded by freshman Mustafa Abdul-Hamid. Dragovic will be eligible in UCLA's game at Pauley on Saturday against Michigan.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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