Blue Blood Battle

News, notes and quotes on KU's battle with the struggling UCLA Bruins today in Pauley Pavilion at 4:30 p.m. (CT) in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, while thinking Kansas stars Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins will shine in the nationally televised contest on Fox Sports Net.

SCOUTING UCLA

The Bruins are just 2-4 and coming off three straight losses in the 76 Classic in Anaheim. UCLA was crushed by Portland, 74-47, in the Classic's opening game on Nov. 26, then fell to No. 12 Butler, 69-67, and lost the final game to Long Beach State, 79-68.

UCLA, which went 26-9 last season, is averaging just 65.5 points and allowing 67.7 ppg. The Bruins are slightly outrebounding foes 35.5 to 34.5 per game and force 15.8 turnovers per contest. UCLA is shooting  only 43.6 percent from the field, 26 percent from three-point range, and 55.6 percent at the charity stripe.

Senior guard Michael Roll leads coach Ben Howland's Bruins with 13.3 points per game, 30 assists, and 14 three-pointers. Sophomore guard Malcolm Lee is next in scoring at 12.3 points per game, while also recording 22 assists and a team-high 15 free throws. Senior forward Nikola Dragovic averages 7.8 points and team-high 7.0 rebounds per game, followed by freshman forward Reeves Nelson (7.3 ppg), sophomore guard Jerime Anderson (6.2 ppg, 18 assists and team-high 10 steals), senior forward James Keefe (3.5 ppg), and junior guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid (2.8 ppg).

UCLA has been beset by injuries in the early season and dealing with sophomore power forward Drew Gordon (11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) leaving the team on Dec. 1. The 6-9 Gordon, one of the premier frontcourt players coming out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., clashed with Howland and was reportedly unhappy playing out of position at center.

"The UCLA system is very methodical, and Drew is better as a transition player," Gordon's mother, Shelly Davis, told the San Jose Mercury News. "When you spend that much time and effort on something, you have to feel some gratification.

"We wanted to make the change now rather than wait and hope the situation gets better. The timing is terrible: It looks like he's leaving because they lost a bunch of games. But that's not what happened."

SELF ON UCLA

"I think they're really young and the NBA early entries have hurt them over time," KU coach Bill Self said of the struggling Bruins. "They've been hit pretty hard. Also, they've been so beat up. Ben's had to practice three on three in practice because he's only had six guys some days. It's hard to get good whenever you can't be on the practice floor and get the reps.

"They're still UCLA and they'll regroup and recover. I'm sure they'll play well on Sunday."

Self is looking forward to the road test and playing a quality team after No. 1 KU (6-0) coasted to victories in five of its first six games.

"Our season beings Sunday as far as the competitive aspect of it because we've had five games our guys have not had to labor under pressure," Self said. "The one game we did (57-55 victory over Memphis on Nov. 17), we didn't look that great. Hopefully, we'll be better prepared. We need to go play some people."

ELIJAH HEADS BACK WEST

KU freshman guard Elijah Johnson, who moved to Las Vegas in the seventh grade from Gary, Ind., and starred at Cheyenne High School, is looking forward to playing close to home.

"It's kind of exciting because it's the first time back West so I get to play in front of some family and actually playing a good team that was recruiting me pretty hard," Johnson said. "It'll be a big game. I'm pretty excited for it, but I'll play like I play every other game. I don't play to the team name, I play to coach Self."

Johnson, who dished out nine assists in 21 minutes in KU's last victory over Alcorn State on Dec. 2, said it was never a dream to play for UCLA.

"I grew up in Gary, Ind., and it was always Kansas," Johnson said. "Kansas, Kansas, Kansas. When I moved to the West Coast, UCLA kind of came into the picture, but my heart was Midwest."

CLASH OF TRADITION-RICH POWERS

UCLA and Kansas are two of the most tradition-rich schools in the land. KU ranks third in NCAA Division I history in all-time wins with 1,976, while UCLA is ninth with 1,648 victories. The Bruins have won 11 NCAA titles and earned 17 Final Four Berths. KU, meanwhile, has captured five national championships and appeared in 13 Final Fours.

The Bruins lead the all-time series 10-4 with the last game a 68-55 UCLA victory in the West Regional Finals of the 2007 NCAA tournament in San Jose, Calif. The teams have met five times in the NCAA's with UCLA winning each time. The Bruins won the first eight meetings (the teams first met in 1958) while Kansas won four of the next five.

COLLINS KNOWS BRUINS

KU senior Sherron Collins is the only Jayhawk who played against UCLA in the 2007 West Regional final. He was 0-of-4 from the field with one rebound and two assists in 15 minutes. Junior Brady Morningstar was also on the team, but did not play. This current UCLA team had two players see action in that game. Roll scored three points in nine minutes while Keefe played one minute.

LOOKING FOR LUCKY NO. 11

Kansas is just 10-7 in games played on Dec. 6. Thirty-four years ago on Dec. 6, 1975, KU beat St. Louis, 70-64, in Allen Fieldhouse. KU head coach Ted Owens used just six players in the game as Norm Cook and Herb Nobles carried the Jayhawks with double-doubles. Cook posted 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Nobles had 14 points and 11 boards. Cook led KU in scoring that 1975-76 season with 14.8 points per game, one of five players who averaged in double figures. Clint Johnson (11.0 ppg), Nobles (10.8 ppg), Ken Koenigs (10.7 ppg), and Paul Mokeski (10.6) also scored in double digits for the 13-13 Jayhawks.

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