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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

UCLA seniors respond to Coach Howland's message

After tough loss at Washington, he asked them to be more vocal.

February 04, 2009|David Wharton and Chris Foster

The Bruins now say that last week's turnaround -- marked by impressive victories over California and Stanford -- began with Coach Ben Howland calling the team's three senior starters into his office for a meeting.

UCLA had just dropped a tough game at Washington and Howland said: "We felt we were at a crossroads."

His message was two-fold: The team needed to show more intensity. Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya needed to lead that effort.

"Just that we have to be more vocal," Aboya said. "Approach this thing differently. Get everybody ready."

The center said that he and his teammates offered a suggestion of their own, expressing a desire to run more motion to get everyone involved at the offensive end.

UCLA responded by forcing a combined 40 turnovers and averaging 89 points over the next two games.

"Everyone follows the seniors," forward James Keefe said. "There's been a big difference in intensity in practice and games."

Johnson doubtful

USC will probably be without forward Marcus Johnson tonight because of a shoulder ailment.

Johnson, who has provided a spark off the bench the last four games, was scheduled to speak with the team's doctor Tuesday night after undergoing an MRI exam in the morning. The injury is believed to be a strained rotator cuff.

"It's a little better today," Johnson said. "I can lift my arm today."

Johnson, who is averaging eight points in the last four games, wasn't ready to rule himself out for tonight's game, saying, "It will depend on the treatment and how I feel [today]."

Coach Tim Floyd was less optimistic, saying Marcus Simmons would probably fill Johnson's role.

Neither Johnson nor Floyd said they knew how the senior forward was injured.

"I think the basketball gods decided they hadn't done anything to us in a while, so they said, 'Let's give him a sore shoulder,' " Floyd said. "Marcus was playing really well. This is a big loss."

Back in action

The Bruins' two freshmen big men missed practice time this week.

Drew Gordon suffered from a headache after hitting his head and jamming his neck in Saturday's victory over Stanford, Howland said. He was expected to return.

J'mison Morgan sprained his ankle but was able to participate in a team shoot-around Tuesday morning.

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david.wharton@latimes.com

chris.foster@latimes.com

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