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NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Collison is set to take a shot at Weber State

UCLA point guard says problem with an ankle won't keep him from playing against the Wildcats today in the first round of the NCAA West Regional.

March 15, 2007|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — UCLA Coach Ben Howland said that injured point guard Darren Collison rested his sprained ankle during a Wednesday morning shoot-around. But Collison wasn't going to miss the 30-minute public practice at Arco Arena that is required of all NCAA teams.

Ten minutes after Howland spoke, Collison ran onto the court wearing a black ankle brace and carrying a basketball. And it wasn't a symbolic appearance or a chance to get cheered by the handful of Bruins fans in attendance.

"I'm fine, I'm playing," Collison said.

Tuesday night, just as the Bruins (26-5) were getting on a chartered flight for their first-round NCAA game against Weber State (20-11), UCLA officials sent out a cryptic e-mail saying Collison had suffered a Grade 1 sprain at the end of practice. A television camera caught Collison wearing a boot on the ankle as he got on the plane.

The Bruins are seeded No. 2 in the West Regional and will play the 15th-seeded Wildcats, champions of the Big Sky Conference, today about 4:25 p.m. at Arco Arena.

Collison, who leads the Bruins in steals and assists and was the Pacific 10 Conference's leading three-point shooter by percentage, said he rolled the ankle, something athletes do all the time.

"I can run just as fast as ever," he said. "I practiced this morning, I'll shoot with the team."

Said Howland: "He's tough. He has the heart of a lion."

Weber State Coach Randy Rahe said that when he watched UCLA film, Collison made an impression.

"To me, he makes their team go," Rahe said. "You watch films and he makes every big play. He's the whole engine of that team. He's a leader, the guy who really makes them click."

At the end of their public practice, the Bruins had some fun shooting from half court. Howland made a shot, pushing the ball from his chest, and so did assistant Kerry Keating. Most of the other shots clanked off the clock, the backboard and the rim. Except the air balls.

Rahe would like today's game to be equally clunky.

"Ugly as possible," Rahe said. "That is how we play. I told our kids if we can keep it in the 50s, that's huge, 60s, we have a shot and if it gets in the 70s, that's probably not going to work for us."

The Bruins scored 51 points against Washington in their last regular-season game. It worked for Washington. The Huskies won by 10 points. The Bruins scored 69 points against California in overtime at the Pac-10 tournament. The Golden Bears won by seven.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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Bruins matchups

A look at UCLA's first-round tournament game against Weber State:

*--* STARTERS UCLA Ht. Wt. Stats Pos WEBER STATE Ht. Wt. Stats Josh Shipp 6-5 207 13.5 ppg F Dan Henry 6-5 200 7.7 ppg L.R. Mbah 6-7 224 7.7 rpg F David Patten 6-8 230 14.4 ppg a Moute Lorenzo 6-8 235 5.4 rpg C Arturas 6-9 215 6.6 rpg Mata Valeika Arron 6-5 210 16.7 ppg G Juan Pablo 6-3 195 11.2 ppg Afflalo Silveira Darren 6-0 160 45% 3pt G Dezmon Harris 6-1 175 10.9 ppg Collison RESERVES Alfred 6-8 233 4.4 rpg C Steve Panos 6-8 230 1.4 rpg Aboya Michael 6-5 205 5.0 ppg F Tyler 6-8 225 8.2 ppg Roll Billings R. 6-3 187 3.3 ppg G Brody Van 6-2 175 3.8 ppg Westbrook Brocklin

HOW THEY MATCH UP

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* INSIDE -- Center Mata can be dangerous with a left- and right-handed hook over any center smaller or less mobile. Mbah a Moute may surprise Patten with his offensive rebounding abilities and sudden but streaky aggressiveness toward the basket. Shipp will often leave the Wildcats wondering how he went from the baseline, around Henry, and materialized just in time for a putback. It's instinct and it's hard to coach -- or coach against. Valeika is a good perimeter shooter who might draw Mata too far from the basket.

* OUTSIDE -- UCLA Coach Ben Howland admires the structure of Weber State's offense. The Wildcats don't look for the three-point shot much, and they will seldom look for the quick shot. Patten has been their star because he gets garbage under the basket. But he also shoots confidently from mid-range. Weber State has no one to match the quickness of point guard Collison -- unless Collison is slowed too much by his sprained ankle. Afflalo will be expected to take more than the seven shots he got in last week's loss to California.

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