UCLA faces uphill climb

UCLA forward Jason Kapono believed it was the turning point.

After blowing out Washington State on Jan. 4, Kapono felt optimistic about the rest of the year. The win was the Bruins' second straight, and it appeared the woes of their 2-5 start were behind them.

"It's a good confidence builder, and hopefully it'll lead to some more victories," Kapono told Fox Sports. "We've got to erase the bad feeling left from the way we've started this year."

But, three weeks later, Kapono's still got that feeling.

The senior's words look silly now.

UCLA (4-11) is mired in its worst season since the last World War, and there are many theories as to why the Bruins have fallen off the college basketball radar.

A part of the problem has been UCLA's defense, which ranks near the bottom in almost every Pac-10 category. Opponents are shooting 44.1 percent, while averaging 75.6 points a game.

The Bruins sorely miss center Dan Gadzuric, now with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. T.J. Cummings, a natural power forward, has shifted to center and freshmen forwards Michael Fey and Ryan Hollins have played their age, causing a lack of an inside presence.

"The entire team has struggled to find a rhythm," UCLA coach Steve Lavin said. "We've really had a difficult time trying to get any level of confidence going."

Saturday's 80-69 loss to California was UCLA's sixth straight, the first time that's happened since the 1947-48 season — the year before legendary coach John Wooden took over. Wooden would go on to lead the Bruins to 10 NCAA titles.

None of that has rubbed off on UCLA this year.

After opening its non-conference schedule against weaker teams, UCLA has been held to 44-percent shooting in Pac-10 play. Opposing defenses have caught on to UCLA's perimeter-shooting philosophy. The Bruins' lack of an inside presence has only made things worse.

"It's been a discouraging season to this point," Lavin said. "It's the collective play at both ends of the floor that has us searching for answers."

But it may be Lavin who takes the fall.

On Jan. 13, the Los Angeles Times ran an article saying Lavin would resign. He denied rumors about quitting the following day.

"Any time the coach or the team struggles to win on the floor, his job status is going to come under scrutiny," Lavin said. "At no point did I consider resigning. At no point will I consider resigning."

Some have rushed to Lavin's defense.

"UCLA is like a Kentucky or a North Carolina where there's going to be a tremendous amount of expectations with those jobs," Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "I can't imagine any tougher job, because you're expected to win and win them all."

"I've always been a big fan of Steve Lavin," said USC coach Henry Bibby, who graduated from UCLA in 1972. "Steve can bounce back and make things happen."

Despite the support, Lavin's seven-year run at UCLA, which includes three consecutive Sweet 16 appearances (2000-02), will likely come to an end. Many expect Lavin will be fired at the end of this season.

"It's a miracle if he doesn't get booed during a home game," Daily Bruin sports editor Jon Paul Hoornstra said. "Everyone on campus, and that likely includes Lavin himself, knows that this is his last season."

Until then, his team has 12 more games, including a meeting with Oregon on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.

A loss would give the Bruins their first seven-game losing streak since the 1945-46 season.

And playing at home hasn't been a cure by any means — seven home losses this year has set yet another dubious record.

"We're getting back to doing what we do best, which is teaching and coaching and playing better basketball," Lavin said. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to do that this year."

Carey undergoes surgery

New Mexico point guard Senque Carey will remain hospitalized longer than expected following surgery to remove a bulging disk in his back.

Carey will not be discharged Wednesday, as doctors had initially predicted, according to an Associated Press report.

The 24-year-old suffered a spinal injury Nov. 25, which paralyzed him from the waist down. The senior regained full motion two weeks later and underwent physical therapy, but he reported numbness in his legs and pain in his upper back.

The surgery aimed to remove the bulging disc because of the pain it created.

"He's in good condition, but he's not recovering as quickly as they initially hoped," Stanford University Medical Center director of media relations Ruthann Richter told the AP.

Archie paralyzed

Mississippi Valley State guard Michael Archie was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a stray bullet fired in a nightclub.

Archie was hit in the side early Sunday in a shooting that left a man dead and wounded two others. The 20-year-old averaged 11.2 points and was shot just hours after an 87-68 win at home against Prairie View A&M.

"The doctors are saying he will not have the use of his legs," mother Carol Archie told the AP.

Up and coming

Maryland. Since starting the season 4-3, the Terps have gone 8-1.

Credit coach Gary Williams for keeping No. 10 Maryland a force despite losing three starters from last year's national championship team, including standout Juan Dixon. Maryland is trying to make its third straight Final Four.

He said what?

"I just wanted to get to the locker room, so I could dance a little bit.''

- Kansas coach Roy Williams to the AP after the No. 12 Jayhawks upset No. 3 Texas on Monday.

This and that

New York Knicks guard Allan Houston established an academic scholarship at Tennessee to honor his father and college coach Wade Houston on Friday. … Iowa's Jared Reiner will miss three weeks after hurting his knee in the Hawkeyes' loss Saturday to Ohio State.

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