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UCLA BASKETBALL FYI

UCLA's Reeves Nelson rises to challenge in victory over Arizona

He attributes his hounding defense against Wildcats forward Derrick Williams to disparaging remarks made by a writer on a fan website.

March 01, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • UCLA's Reeves Nelson drives to the basket during the Bruins' 71-49 victory over Arizona on Saturday.
UCLA's Reeves Nelson drives to the basket during the Bruins'… (Christine Cotter / Associated…)

Never doubt Reeves Nelson.

Then again, maybe it's something UCLA fans should consider if they want the sophomore forward to repeat his inspired performance against Arizona.

Nelson attributed his hounding defense against Wildcats forward Derrick Williams on Saturday to disparaging remarks made by a writer on a fan website, calling him out by name after the Bruins' 71-49 victory.

"If someone says I can't do something, I'm going to try and prove them wrong," Nelson said Tuesday. "That's just how I am."

Mission accomplished. Nelson held Williams to two second-half points and scored a career-high 27 points to go with 16 rebounds.

Nelson said the writer's comments were relayed to him by "people who are close to me."

"The fact that they're reading that stuff about me and are close to me makes me want to do better so they don't have to read that stuff anymore," Nelson said. "I just use any slight against me as motivation to do better and prove people wrong."

Should a player need to derive inspiration from what's being written about him?

"If that's motivating him, then we need to write more stuff that will do that because I love it," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "He was very motivated.

"[But] I think for him, the motivation was he wanted to help us win."

Nobody polled them

There was another snub of sorts when the Bruins remained unranked despite winning 12 of their last 14 games to move into a tie for first place in the Pacific 10 Conference.

"Sometimes you feel a little pushed to the side when you're not ranked," junior guard Lazeric Jones said. "Right now, that's just another thing; it puts another chip on our shoulder for us to try and go out and prove people wrong."

UCLA (21-8 overall, 12-4 Pac-10) will get the chance Thursday when it plays Washington (19-9, 10-6) at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, where the Bruins have not won since 2004. The Huskies, who have lost five of their last nine games, are fighting to stay in contention for an NCAA tournament at-large berth.

Barring a total collapse, UCLA appears to be jockeying for its NCAA tournament seeding.

"We're controlling our own destiny here, and we don't have anything to do with whether or not we're ranked," Howland said. "We just have to keep trying to win basketball games."

Feel the love

Kevin O'Neill, Bruins ally?

That was certainly the case Tuesday, when the USC coach spoke at length about what he perceived to be the injustice of UCLA's exclusion from the rankings.

"All I hear about is [Brigham Young] and St. John's every time I turn on the TV," O'Neill said during a teleconference with reporters. "BYU, St. John's. BYU, St. John's. UCLA beat them both.

"Our league just doesn't get the credit for whatever reason. Maybe it's because we live in a different country. You know, we're three hours behind everybody. But to me, they're a top-15, -16 team. I think they've really come along and become a really, really good basketball team."

Told where O'Neill thought the Bruins should be ranked, freshman center Joshua Smith said, "He's a smart man."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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