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UCLA REPORT

It pains Aboya to have to sit out

March 04, 2007|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — UCLA center Lorenzo Mata said his backup, sophomore Alfred Aboya, really wanted to play in Saturday's 61-51 loss to Washington.

"I was in the room when Coach told him no," Mata said. "Alfred was really sad."

Although Aboya might not have made up the entire 15-rebound deficit the Bruins gave up to Washington, Huskies forward Jon Brockman said Aboya would have made a difference.

"This was the most physical game I've ever been in," said Brockman, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds. "And in my other games against UCLA, Aboya was the most physical guy they had. He would always change the tenor."

Aboya injured his left knee Thursday during UCLA's win over Washington State. Though he had come back to play in that game, the knee swelled and Aboya had an X-ray Friday. Though no damage appeared, the knee was still swollen Saturday and Aboya didn't warm up. Coach Ben Howland said he expected Aboya would have another X-ray after the team returned to campus.

Already in his basketball life, Aboya has had three knee surgeries -- two on the right, one on the left. "This doesn't feel so bad as the others," Aboya said. "I think I'll play Thursday."

That's when the top-seeded Bruins open Pacific 10 Conference tournament play against either California or Oregon State at Staples Center. The Bruins swept California, 62-46 in Berkeley and 85-75 at Pauley Pavilion, and Oregon State, 71-56 in Corvallis and 82-35 at Pauley.

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Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar, whose team finished seventh in the Pac-10 with an 8-10 record, said he thought the Huskies might still earn an at-large NCAA tournament bid if they could get to the conference tournament finals.

Combined with the Huskies' win Thursday over USC and the UCLA victory, Romar figures getting to the finals means his team would get two more wins over ranked teams. "I think that might do it," he said.

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This was UCLA's first double-digit loss since losing to Florida, 73-57, in last year's national championship game, and its first double-digit Pac-10 loss since falling to Stanford in Palo Alto, 78-65, on Feb. 20, 2005.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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