UCLA sophomore guard Darren Collison and junior center Lorenzo Mata on Tuesday predicted they would play Thursday against Arizona State, potentially giving the fifth-ranked Bruins a major boost against a Sun Devils team still seeking its first Pacific 10 Conference victory.
Collison's status seemed more uncertain than that of Mata's, who received two hours of treatment on his sore left hip Monday and proclaimed himself "confident that I'll be ready to go" after sitting out the second half of UCLA's 70-65 loss to West Virginia on Saturday.
Collison, sidelined Saturday by a strained left shoulder, said he would try to play even though he had experienced discomfort during a shooting session Tuesday morning and was still having trouble fully extending his left arm.
"Obviously, I'm going to have pain," Collison said. "But if I'm near 100% then, yeah, I'm going to feel comfortable playing. For the most part, I understand this is the most critical time of the season and I'm going to have to be out there on the floor with my teammates."
Coach Ben Howland described himself as "cautiously optimistic" that both players would return against Arizona State, which has lost 14 consecutive games.
Freshman guard Russell Westbrook sat down Monday with assistant coach Kerry Keating to watch film of the West Virginia game, his first college start. The reviews weren't positive.
"We were just talking about the passes I should have made, the timing of shots," said Westbrook, who made one of 11 shots and had three turnovers in 32 minutes.
Howland noted that six of Westbrook's shots were either airballs, blocked or hit the backboard without touching the rim.
"So, really, he had like nine turnovers, which is a lot of turnovers," Howland said.
Collison also made his first start as a freshman in the wake of an injury to a regular -- but his came against Delaware State at Pauley Pavilion, not against West Virginia in front of one of the largest home crowds to ever watch the Mountaineers. Was that about the worst Westbrook could have played?
"Hopefully," Collison said. "I just told him to keep his head up. Everybody's been in that position. When you're a freshman, you have bad games. It's part of his whole experience. I think he will do good the next opportunity he has."
Howland said he did not think the loss to the Mountaineers would jeopardize UCLA's shot at a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament because the Bruins were still No. 1 in the Rating Percentage Index and the defeat came on the road against a quality opponent.
"It's all based on what we do from here on out," Howland said.