UCLA center Anthony Stover spins past Stanford's Andrew Zimmerman… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
There actually could be love lost when crosstown rivals UCLA and USC meet Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA center Anthony Stover and forwards Travis and David Wear all date USC students, making for some interesting exchanges before and after games.
"She was at the SC game wearing her big SC shirt," Stover said Monday of his girlfriend, who is preparing for medical school. "She made sure I saw it right after we lost, so I'm making sure we get this win so we have something to say back to her."
David Wear, who is a redshirt along with his twin brother this season after transferring from North Carolina, dates Christina Marinacci, a sophomore forward for the USC women's basketball team. Can dating someone from your rival school get a little uncomfortable?
"It's not very awkward," said Stover, who expects his girlfriend to sit with his parents Wednesday. "It's a little competitive. We talk a little smack back and forth, but it's just all out of fun."
Thin red frontline
UCLA is about to play USC, so Joshua Smith is in a foul mood.
As in, the Bruins big man hopes to draw lots of them on Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson to keep the Trojans' starting frontline duo on the bench as long as possible.
"They're really, really thin with their backup post players and I know for a fact if we get one of [the starters] in foul trouble, they're going to have to put somebody else in and they're not as effective," Smith said. "So that's my goal."
The more UCLA sees of Garrett Jackson and Curtis Washington, Smith figures, the better.
Jackson, USC's primary backup big man at an undersized 6 feet 6, is averaging four points in 11 minutes per game, and Washington has played 11 minutes this season.
Compare that with Vucevic (16.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game) and Stepheson (9.6 points and 8.9 rebounds) and it's easy to see why Smith wants to keep the Trojans starters off the court.
After Vucevic shredded UCLA for 20 points on nine-for-16 shooting during USC's 63-52 victory last month, Bruins Coach Ben Howland noted that nearly all of the forward's baskets in the half-court offense came while being defended by Brendan Lane.
"He outweighs him by 40 pounds," Howland said of the 6-10, 240-pound Vucevic. "He's a hard matchup for anybody, but for Brendan it was especially difficult. He was able to just knock him back and get to wherever he wanted to go."
As a result, Howland said he would try to avoid that matchup Wednesday. But the coach said he wouldn't consider using a zone defense against the Trojans even though they have struggled against one all season.
"Never say never," Howland said, "but I'm not planning on playing any zone."
Forward Reeves Nelson said his sprained left ankle was bothering him Monday, two days after he exacerbated the injury by stepping on Trent Lockett's foot while trying to block out the Arizona State guard at the free-throw line in the final minute of regulation. Nelson initially injured the ankle against Stanford on Jan. 22. … Howland was scheduled to visit a fraternity and two sororities Monday evening, the second time during the last two homestands he has done so. "It's not so much drumming up fans," Howland said. "I just want them to know how important they are and how much we appreciate their support."