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UCLA basketball looks to rebound against Arizona

Freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad, who started the team’s last game on the bench, will look to rebound with a big performance against Arizona.

Men’s basketball

Today, 6 p.m
Tuscon, Ariz.
ESPN2

By Chris Nguyen

Jan. 24, 2013 12:39 a.m.

Today, UCLA will finish the latter half of the best one-two punch the Pac-12 has to offer.

Having just snapped a 10-game winning streak courtesy of the first-place Oregon Ducks, the Bruins look to begin a new winning streak against the No. 6 Arizona Wildcats – the third-place team in the conference, whose only loss of the season stems from the Ducks.

Much like UCLA, Arizona boasts a highly touted freshman class. The Wildcats also rely heavily on their freshmen, with both forward Brandon Ashley and center Kaleb Tarczewski starting, and forward Grant Jerrett getting major minutes off the bench.

These three freshmen, along with senior forward Solomon Hill, present a formidable frontcourt that could give the at-times rebounding-averse Bruins some trouble on the glass. Against Oregon, UCLA was out-rebounded 37-28 as the Ducks tallied 12 second-chance points as opposed to the Bruins’ two.

“We could box out a little bit better … a lot better … rebound five guys, send everyone to the defensive glass like we should and (not) give up second-shot opportunities,” said redshirt junior forward Travis Wear.

UCLA’s freshman phenom and leading scorer, Shabazz Muhammad, didn’t start in the last game against Oregon because of tardiness at practice.

He said that he lost track of time and fell asleep after his car got towed and his alarm did not go off last Friday.

“That was one of my worst days. And also we lost so that’s pretty bad and it was a bad day for us,” Muhammad said.

“Everybody has a bad day, it’s not going to happen again.”

As for the other two freshmen earning major minutes for UCLA, they haven’t had much luck as of late either. Guard Kyle Anderson missed practice on Tuesday because of a stomach virus and guard Jordan Adams had much of the same stomach issues on Tuesday as well, being forced to leave in the middle of practice but returning later.

Arizona has emerged as a perennial powerhouse in college basketball and has naturally become UCLA’s rival.

“Obviously when you have two real good programs playing each other every year twice there’s going to be a rivalry,” said coach Ben Howland.

“The more the merrier -– we want as many good teams; I think our league is a very good league.”

Muhammad agreed with Howland regarding the importance of tonight’s game.

“This is a ‘gotta-win’ for us, we have to win this game. No questions asked,” Muhammad said. “Especially since we lost against Oregon and we thought we were going to win.”

Email Nguyen at [email protected].

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