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NO. 1 KANSAS 73, UCLA 61

UCLA puts up a fight but ends up with a loss

The Bruins fall to top-ranked Kansas after doing all they can to keep the score respectable in a 73-61 loss at Pauley Pavilion.

December 07, 2009|By David Wharton
  • UCLA forward Reeves Nelson comes up with a rebound in front of Kansas' Xavier Henry in the second half Sunday afternoon.
UCLA forward Reeves Nelson comes up with a rebound in front of Kansas'… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Let the swelling around Reeves Nelson's right eye serve as a metaphor.

The freshman center put up a good fight. Took on bigger opponents. Scored a small victory here and there.

But ultimately he and the rest of the UCLA team got punched out.

They fell to top-ranked Kansas after doing all they could to keep the score respectable in a 73-61 loss at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday afternoon.

"I mean, that's the No. 1 team in the nation," guard Jerime Anderson said. "We didn't want to come out here and get murdered."

The Jayhawks, while hardly giving their best effort of the season, were efficient at finding open players and knocking down shots. They played tough defense, including an inadvertent shot to the face that sent Nelson to the bench and, after the game, to the emergency room.

"We've got a real tall lineup," Kansas center Cole Aldrich said. "We were able to get some offensive boards and kind of wore them down."

The defeat left UCLA at 2-5, struggling with a roster full of underclassmen, some of whom have not yet come to grips with the intensity required by Coach Ben Howland's defense-first system.

As least they came a bit closer Sunday.

The game started with Anderson benched -- he said it was punishment for not taking care of schoolwork. His exile lasted about three minutes as UCLA committed too many turnovers and soon fell a dozen points behind.

"Our guys were really rushed," Howland said. "That hurt us because it dug a big hole."

Kansas forward Markieff Morris, on his way to a game-high 19 points, came off the bench to do much of the damage early.

But with the gap widening, UCLA fought back, Nikola Dragovic's making a pair of shots to keep the halftime score at 35-28. Resiliency was something the players had previously discussed.

They were coming off a rough week.

Not only had the Bruins gone 0-for-Anaheim at the 76 Classic tournament, they got another jolt when starting center Drew Gordon abruptly quit.

The team's response? "We just came in and worked our tails off in practice," guard Michael Roll said.

So the second half against Kansas (7-0) started with a determined feel, UCLA's cutting the deficit to four points.

Nelson added fuel to the fire. He has shown the most energy of any player on the team, coming back from a hyperextended knee to fill the gap left by Gordon's departure.

The 6-foot-8 center spent much of the afternoon butting up against the 6-11 Aldrich, still managing nine points and nine rebounds.

"He was really aggressive," Kansas Coach Bill Self said. "I think that was the best game he's had, at least from what I saw on tape."

With 14:01 remaining, Nelson got poked in the eye and was quickly surrounded by medical staff. He returned about five minutes later, bright yellow goggles covering a shiner that had swollen shut.

"He's a monster," Anderson said. "I was so proud of him."

But Nelson lacked his earlier effectiveness, and the same could be said for his team.

After that run to start the second half, UCLA fell back to a 10-point deficit and never threatened again. The numbers explain why.

Though Roll finished with 16 points and Dragovic contributed 14, the Bruins could neither score consistently -- shooting 36% -- nor make enough free throws.

Even with freshman Tyler Honeycutt showing promise in his first action, grabbing six rebounds, Kansas held a 43-36 edge on the boards, getting a dozen from Aldrich.

And the Jayhawks shot 44%, led by Morris and guard Xavier Henry, who had 16 points.

All of which had the Bruins looking tired, forcing shots at the end.

Later Sunday night, doctors at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center diagnosed Nelson with a corneal abrasion that could keep him out three to four days.

Roll was left to diagnose the game.

"They spread us out good," he said of Kansas, "and just beat us up down low."

david.wharton@latimes.com

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