Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mata On The Mend

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA may have sophomore center Lorenzo Mata back as early as the start of the Pac-10 conference tournament which begins March 9 at Staples Center.

"He is healing right now, as we speak," Howland said. "I'm hoping he'll be back by the Pac-10 tournament."

At the time of his injury, a return to action this season seemed improbable.

While in pursuit of a loose ball in a game against Washington St. on January 13, Mata collided with teammate, Jordan Farmar; Mata immediately crumpled to the ground holding his knee as the crowd at Pauley Pavilion stood in quiet concern for their popular sophomore center.

The diagnosis was a nondisplaced tibial plateau fracture of the right knee. The prognosis for recovery was 6 to 8 weeks, but many believed Mata had played in his last game this season.

Considering how Lorenzo Mata plays basketball with his heart and soul, we should have known better than to underestimate his will for recovery to play again this year.

Before his knee injury, the sophomore was playing the best basketball of his collegiate career. Mata played in 12 games this season, and had started the last 6 games at center. He was averaging 4.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in 18.2 minutes per game.

Mata provided the Bruins with toughness inside the paint with his hustle, rebounding and shot-blocking. His importance could also be seen in the team’s won-loss record.

In games this season in which Mata has been in the line-up, the team has a stellar record of 11-1, but in games he has missed the Bruin record is 6-3.

Mata has been attending games and practices, supported by the use of a heavy knee brace and crutches, watching quietly from the sidelines. And it has been difficult for the sophomore.

"I live for just being able to play basketball and I haven't been able to do it," Mata said. "I just want to get back out there."

Mata no longer requires the heavy knee brace, and has begun rehabilitation on his knee by jogging on a treadmill.

"Right now it's just a little sore because I haven't done anything with it" Mata said.

The return of Mata would help further bolster a frontline which has shown improved play in recent games, and just in time for the tough games the Bruins will face in the Pac-10 and NCAA postseason tournaments.



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