Nelson Returns, Powers Bruins To Pac-10 Tourney Win
By Bruin Basketball Report
Freshman Reeves Nelson returned to the line-up and recorded a double-double with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds to power UCLA to a 75-69 win over Arizona in its Pac-10 tournament opener.
Nelson had missed four consecutive games including a loss to the Wildcats in Arizona.
The freshman post player sported goggles all game long to protect his right eye. He had laser surgery weeks earlier to repair a tear in his retina.
While Nelson complained about the ill-fitting protective eye wear, he gave Arizona more to complain about with his punishing play inside as the Wildcats had no answer for the 6'8 Bruin. He finished 8 of 9 from the field and played 32 minutes.
Seniors Michael Roll and Nikola Dragovic helped their own chance to play another collegiate game by each scoring 18 points.
Roll hit on 3 three-pointers while Dragovic was 10 of 12 from the free throw line. The Serbian also had 3 blocks and 2 steals.
However, it was Nelson who gave UCLA (14-17, 8-10) an interior scoring threat, something the team had sorely missed the past two weeks.
In this contest UCLA Coach Ben Howland effectively mixed up the defensive scheme - something he hasn't done often this season - by switching from man-to-man to zone defense which seemed to confuse the Wildcats at times in the halfcourt.
Arizona (16-15. 10-8) shot just 40% from the field.
While the Bruins executed better on offense and got the ball inside to Nelson, the Wildcats did not play well defensively as they gave up a number of easy shots to the Bruins.
UCLA finished the game hitting on 53.2% from the field after starting off 64% in the first half.
With the tournament win, the Bruins will face California tomorrow at the Staples Center in the next round. The Bears beat the Oregon Ducks 90-74 in the other tournament game.