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Ben Howland concerned that UCLA players let opposing fans get inside their heads

The UCLA coach wants his players to tune out taunts from the crowd when the Bruins play on the road, but they failed to do so during Thursday's loss at Arizona, or in an earlier defeat at USC.

January 28, 2011|By Ben Bolch

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — UCLA might want to add ear plugs to its travel checklist the next time it hits the road.

The Bruins continue to have problems tuning out opposing fans, their latest issues surfacing Thursday night during an 85-74 loss to Arizona. UCLA Coach Ben Howland said several players responded to what he called inappropriate remarks made by Wildcats fans.

"All they're trying to do is to get you to react to it, so it's actually serving what someone in the crowd tries to do," Howland said Friday. "It happened to more than one of our players, which is really unfortunate.

"At this point in the season you'd think you'd be over that by now."

Howland called the comments from the crowd of 14,258 "some personal things directed at certain kids you would think would be inappropriate in some circles." Students taunted Reeves Nelson after the Bruins forward fouled out late in the game, calling out every step he took before yelling "Sit down!" as Nelson plopped down on the bench.

Nelson responded by repeatedly rising from his chair and then sitting back down, triggering a devilish smile on his face.

"I always get a kick out of whatever they try to do with their little chants," Nelson said after the game. "I was just messing with them a little bit."

Howland, whose team plays at Arizona State on Saturday, was not amused.

"It's a little kid's thing and he's reacting to that," Howland said. "It's like, come on. We're losing, just sit down and don't react to the crowd. . . . That's really immature."

It wasn't the first time UCLA has had issues with hostile fans. Freshman center Joshua Smith extended his middle finger to USC fans earlier this month in response to an insult. Smith acknowledged he was rattled again Thursday.

"We let little things get in our head, let the crowd get in our head, let the refs get in our head," Smith said. "We didn't play the right way."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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