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UCLA BASKETBALL FYI

Darren Collison says he's ready to go

Point guard's injured tailbone isn't 100%, but he says he is able to apply defensive pressure.

March 19, 2009|David Wharton

PHILADELPHIA — The last few days, UCLA point guard Darren Collison has been testing his bruised tailbone by playing aggressive defense in practice.

So far, so good.

"That was my main concern, if I could really put pressure on the ball," he said.

The senior rated himself at somewhere less than 100% but figures he will be fine when the sixth-seeded Bruins face 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the East Regional at the Wachovia Center tonight.

Collison fell hard against Oregon almost two weeks ago. Though reluctant to talk about it, he said that soreness hampered him when UCLA lost to crosstown rival USC in the semifinals of the Pacific 10 Conference tournament.

On Wednesday, he said, "I feel a lot better."

It helped that he had a row to himself on UCLA's flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, allowing him to stretch out and take pressure off the injury.

More good news

Freshman Drew Gordon had a similarly positive report about his sore left knee.

"Nothing's torn," he said. "No serious problems."

Gordon, who is averaging 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in almost 11 minutes a game, has been icing his knee for the last few days.

Road warriors

UCLA had a short practice Wednesday afternoon at the Wachovia Center, doing just a little shooting and running. The day's real practice was conducted earlier -- away from the public eye -- at a local community college gym.

Much of the talk during a subsequent news conference centered on the Bruins traveling across country, something new for a team that for the last few years has entered March Madness as a No. 1 or No. 2 seeded team, playing early-round games close to home.

A few too many losses during the regular season made them a No. 6 seeded team this time. "You control nothing when it comes to where you're put in the NCAA tournament," Coach Ben Howland said. "You have to be able to excel no matter where they put you."

Bad memories

VCU Coach Anthony Grant said he is concerned about playing a UCLA team that ranks second in the nation with a field-goal accuracy of 49.4%, but the Bruins have been hearing a different message the last few days.

Freshman guard Jrue Holiday said that when he or one of his teammates takes a bad shot in practice, Howland reminds them that they shot only 27% in the loss to USC last week.

"Nineteen for 70," Holiday said about his team's performance in that game. "It's crazy we missed that many shots."

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david.wharton@latimes.com

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