Saturday, October 21

UCLA men’s basketball battles injuries in Reeves, Keefe

Bruins take down the Cougars, 71-51; Reeves Nelson injures right eye again in big dunk


Michael Chen

PULLMAN, Wash. “”mdash; The Bruin men’s basketball team was dealt two huge blows on Thursday ““ one on the court and one off it.

Late in the first half, an emphatic dunk by freshman foreward Reeves Nelson quickly turned into a chilling scene as he lost his grip on the rim and his face slammed against the hardwood. The team trainers were immediately called over, but Nelson picked himself up and walked briskly off the court, leaving behind a pool of blood that had gathered beneath the basket.

While Nelson’s face was receiving treatment by on-site doctors at Beasley Coliseum, his team was busy putting up a 14-point halftime lead en route to a 71-51 win over Washington State. Nelson would eventually be given medical clearance to see more action in the second half after receiving a total of 15 stitches on the eyebrow above his right eye.

“The trainer told me, “˜If we can avoid putting him in, it would be better for (his eye) in case he gets whacked again,’” coach Ben Howland said.

With the Bruins’ lead secured, the 230-pound freshman remained on the bench for the rest of the game, but it was clear from his postgame interview that Nelson was more concerned with getting back out there than preventing further injury.

“I was just pissed that I couldn’t play anymore,” he said.

Nelson was poked in the same right eye in UCLA’s game against Kansas back in December. Though he was diagnosed with a corneal abrasion, he returned to the court later in that contest, albeit wearing some protective goggles.

“He’s going to look pretty scary with these eye injuries after a while,” Howland said jokingly on Thursday.

Keefe’s career over:

Earlier in the day, the Bruins announced that senior James Keefe would need season-ending surgery on the torn labrum in his shoulder, which has hampered him all season.

“The doctor said every time it pops out there is a chance it could do damage to the joint,” Keefe said.

After UCLA’s game against California, doctors told the starting forward that if his shoulder didn’t improve, surgery would be mandatory. Keefe had to admit his shoulder wasn’t feeling any better.

“The pain was the same as it was five days ago,” Keefe said before the game.

Morgan gets minutes:

In the absence of both Nelson and Keefe, sophomore center J’Mison Morgan got more playing time than he’s ever seen as a Bruin. In his 21 minutes on the court, Morgan totaled three blocks and three assists, but most importantly garnered some respect from his coach.

“(His) minutes were key for us,” Howland said.

For the first time in his collegiate career, Morgan said he felt like he was allowed to get into a rhythm, which will help him improve.

“That’s the type of player I am,” he said. “I have to get going, get into the game before I can start to help the team. With my performance tonight … I think I can get bigger blocks of minutes.”

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