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UCLA REPORT

Schedule in Maui to test Bruins' nagging injuries

November 18, 2006|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Ben Howland sounded subdued. The UCLA basketball coach dived right into his least favorite subject -- injuries -- during a conference call Friday.

"So here we are," Howland said. "Afflalo did bruise his knee against BYU. The MRI came back negative. I expect him to be able to practice no later than today. Josh is fine, he came in and is fine."

Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp, two of UCLA's top players on offense, limped out of Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night after the Bruins had opened the season with an 82-69 victory.

Shipp, who was sidelined for all but four games last season while recovering from hip surgery, was massaging the surgically repaired hip during the game's final moments while he sat on the bench; and Afflalo, who had bumped knees with a Brigham Young player, limped noticeably after the game. Afflalo answered all questions about his limp Wednesday with a tight-lipped, "I'm fine."

Little injuries can become big when a team plays consecutive games, and the Bruins will be playing three nights in a row starting with Monday's first-round matchup against Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. Besides the sixth-ranked Bruins, nationally ranked Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Memphis are in the field along with Oklahoma, Purdue and DePaul.

"A team can come out of Maui," Howland said, "be 1-2 and still have a chance to have a really good year."

The eight-team field is seeded, and that's how UCLA drew NCAA Division II Chaminade in the first round and how the Bruins, if they win, will play Kentucky or DePaul in the second game. Howland was quick to say that Chaminade is no pushover.

"Chaminade returns two starters," Howland said. "They like to get up and down, play at a fast tempo."

And Howland made sure to mention Chaminade's historic upset of Virginia, 77-72, on Dec. 23, 1982.

Virginia was a national championship favorite with center Ralph Sampson and was ranked No. 1 in two polls. At the time Chaminade was an NAIA school with 800 students. Now it has nearly 1,200 undergraduate students.

"It was a tremendous upset," Howland said. "We're still talking about how big a deal it was. That Chaminade upset will happen again, and I hope it's not us Monday night."

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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