- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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If UCLA is going to rebound from its lackluster start, the Bruins (4-5) have to rebound better and that starts against UC Davis in a non-conference game Saturday at noon at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
David Wear is leading the Bruins in rebounding with only 5.6 per game and the Bruins have had only two players reach double figures in rebounding in a game so far this season. They are getting out-rebounded 33.6-32.9 per game, which isn't particularly impressive for a team that has four players who are 6-10.
Those 6-10 players are David Wear (averaging 5.6 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game), Travis Wear (5.1 in 27), Joshua Smith (4.9 in 16.8) and Anthony Stover (1.1 rebounds in 7.6 minutes).
"We need more rebounds out of our bigs," coach Ben Howland said. "It’s pretty clear to our team: If you want to play a lot of minutes, get rebounds. Be a good, leading rebounder. We need someone to step up and take that challenge to get eight or nine rebounds a night."
That player last season was Reeves Nelson, who averaged 9.1 rebounds last season and had 16 games of 10 or more. Nelson was dismissed from the team and Howland has yet to find the player who can replace him on the glass.
Howland would even like to see better rebounding out of his guards and small forwards.
"It’s everybody," Howland said. "When we contest shots on the perimeter, instead of rushing back in to help rebound, they’re kind of leaking out. We can’t afford to have anybody leak out early. We don’t have Kevin Love on the boards getting every rebound."
TRAVIS WEAR STILL QUESTIONABLE: Travis Wear, who missed Wednesday's game against Eastern Washington because of a skin infection on his foot, did not practice Thursday or Friday and is questionable for Saturday's game against UC Davis.
"There’s a possibility he’ll play but they didn’t want him to practice today because they felt like exercise that close to coming back off this infection might make it swell back up," Howland said. "Hopefully he’ll be able to play tomorrow. I don’t know that yet."
Howland said Joshua Smith would again start at center with Travis Wear out.
NORMAN POWELL NEEDS TO GET DEFENSIVE: Freshman guard Normal Powell has impressed on offense during his time on the court but Howland would like to see some improvement on the other end of the floor.
Howland said Powell broke down twice in the first half against Eastern Washington and allowed his man to get off a wide open shot.
"What I explained to Norman is, hey, you’re going to miss shots and that’s much less of an issue than defensive breakdowns," Howland said. "He’s still learning these things...I think Norman is going to be a real good player, but there is a learning curve and like most freshman that’s what he’s going through."
NELSON HEADING TO LITHUANIA: Howland said Reeves Nelson has signed a professional contract with Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania, though he did not reveal the terms of the contract.
"He’s got a very, very good opportunity to play with an outstanding team," Howland said. "I talked to a friend who said he’s going to a really good team at the highest level of European basketball."
STRUGGLING AGGIES: UCLA's opponent Saturday is probably the weakest team on the Bruins' schedule this season. The Aggies (1-8) have lost five consecutive games and their only victory this season was against Division III UC Santa Cruz.
Two weeks ago, Davis lost to Eastern Washington, 79-59. UCLA defeated Eastern Washington, 60-47, on Wednesday. The Aggies had a late lead against Hawaii in the last game, but couldn't hold on and lost, 74-61. Adding to the troubles is a season-ending knee injury to leading scorer Ryan Sypkens.
Still, Howland said he is concerned about defending the Aggies because of the unusual style of offense they play.
"They really spread you out," Howland said. "They do a lot of dribble handoffs and weaves. A lot of ball screening and slipping of screens. It's a hard team to guard."
Sophomore Josh Ritchart, who had 24 points against UCLA in a 74-67 Bruins' victory last year, is averaging 13.8 points this season.
4dChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell