UCLA fans react as the Bruins get crushed by USC at Pauley Pavilion last month. (Kirby Lee / Image of Sport…)
Words rarely uttered by a UCLA basketball player, at least when discussing USC:
"We're going to try to show that we can play with them," UCLA freshman Tyler Honeycutt said Tuesday, a statement that might make those 11 national championship banners -- 10 of which are more than 30 years old -- fade a bit more.
Then again, USC did rout UCLA, 67-46, at Pauley Pavilion last month -- the Bruins' worst loss to the Trojans since 1945.
Heading into their rivalry renewal Sunday at the Galen Center, the teams are part of a five-way tie for second place in the Pacific 10 Conference, though neither is in position to be considered for an NCAA tournament at-large berth.
USC, 14-9 overall, 6-5 in conference play, is out because of self-imposed sanctions.
UCLA would be out because of self-inflicted wounds, a 72-58 loss to California last Saturday the most recent bobble in an 11-12, 6-5 season.
USC has swept a season series from UCLA only four times since 1942. The Bruins have never lost to the Trojans in three meetings at the Galen Center.
"I know their goal is try to win the regular season Pac-10 championship, because they're not going to play in the Pac-10 tournament," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.
UCLA's goal is a little more personal.
"We owe them," forward James Keefe said of USC. "They came over here and embarrassed us on our home floor. It's our turn."
Nelson to play
Freshman forward Reeves Nelson, the Bruins' best inside player, is expected to play Sunday after suffering a concussion against California.
"I feel a lot better," said Nelson, who was cleared to participate in non-contact drills Tuesday. "All my symptoms pretty much went away halfway through the Super Bowl on Sunday. I feel pretty normal."
Nelson was injured when he collided with Markhuri Sanders-Frison, California's 6-foot-8, 275-pound reserve center, early in the game.
"We were talking that we both felt really dizzy, but we were going to stay in the game," Nelson said.
"That's my first concussion. I was really weirded out by it."