Morehead St.-UCLA Preview
Though UCLA has fared well despite starting the season short-handed, it will gladly welcome one of its top players back to the court.
Senior forward Travis Wear expects to make his season debut Friday night when the No. 22 Bruins look to start 4-0 for the time in six years against visiting Morehead State in a regional matchup of the Las Vegas Invitational.
A staple in UCLA's lineup the past two seasons, the 6-foot-10 Wear averaged 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds while starting all but one of the 32 games he played in 2012-13. He's again expected to be a big part of the Bruins' plans this season, and finally appears ready to play after undergoing an appendectomy Oct. 28.
"He's been doing a lot of things on his own and with our trainer and our strength coach," coach Steve Alford said. "He's felt very, very good, but there's a timetable that we had to stick to and he's done a really good job of getting things back.
"He should be back by Friday."
The Bruins, however, likely must wait until at least next week for 6-9 Wanaah Bail to make his highly anticipated debut following knee surgery. Fellow freshman Noah Allen remains out after suffering fractures to his face in a 91-60 win over Oakland on Nov. 12.
Despite those injuries, UCLA is averaging 83.0 points on 50.8 percent shooting while holding its first three opponents to 67 or fewer points. The Bruins, who haven't won their first four games since going 7-0 in 2007-08, are off to their third 3-0 start in four years but slumps followed the last two - a four-game skid in 2010 and a 2-3 stretch last season.
Jordan Adams had 21 points with eight steals and Wear's twin brother, David, added 12 points with 10 rebounds as the Bruins shot 54.5 percent and recorded 19 assists in an 86-50 rout of Sacramento State on Monday.
"It's obvious that UCLA will be a good team this year," Sacramento State coach Brian Katz said. "They are a team that can explode and they did. They have a lot of weapons."
Minus Travis Wear and the two talented freshmen, UCLA has shown its depth with Adams' 19.7 average leading five Bruins scoring at least 10.0 per contest. Alford's squad is holding opponents to 34.2 percent shooting, and it committed season lows of nine fouls and 10 turnovers Monday.
"Hopefully we're making some progress," he said.
UCLA hopes to further progress during its first meeting with Morehead State (4-1), which begins a four-game stretch through California and Nevada as part of the Las Vegas Invitational.
The Eagles have won two in a row since a 79-56 loss at Xavier last Friday.
Averaging a team-leading 17.0 points, Morehead State guard Angelo Warner scored 25 and pulled down nine rebounds in a 74-61 win at Northern Kentucky on Tuesday.
"Angelo is becoming Mr. Consistency with the things he does for us," coach Sean Woods told the school's official website.
The Eagles have been far from pushovers against ranked opponents in recent years. They led well into the second half of their last two such matchups, losing 81-70 to then-No. 8 Kentucky last Nov. 21 and 66-60 to then-No. 12 Murray State on Jan. 18, 2012. Those are their only two meetings with Top 25 foes since beating then-No. 14 Louisville 62-61 in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament.
UCLA continues play in this tournament at home Sunday against Chattanooga before heading to Las Vegas next week to face Nevada and Northwestern.