Saturday, February 27, 2010
Nikola Dragovic's disappointing day
A large number of fans remained scattered throughout Pauley Pavilion nearly an hour after UCLA's 70-68 loss to Oregon on Saturday afternoon.
Children ran around pulling on their jerseys, holding pens and programs, scavenging for leading scorers Michael Roll and Malcolm Lee.
A line gathered around Nikola Dragovic too. The senior signed autographs and posed for pictures whenever he was approached. Dragovic had a smile for every flash, though he might have very well been the unhappiest person in the building.
In his final home game, a season-long trend continued -- Dragovic left something to be desired. He scored seven points, missing all but one of his six 3-point attempts. Despite staying around the paint on the defensive end, the 6-foot-9 forward grabbed only one rebound in 34 minutes. Oregon capitalized inside, pulling down 13 offensive rebounds and scoring 13 second-chance points.
A more frightening thought? Roll and Lee, mostly perimeter players who were busy chasing around Tajuan Porter, combined for seven rebounds. Dragovic played 11 more minutes than freshman Brendan Lane, yet Lane had four more rebounds.
Granted, none of this comes as a surprise. Dragovic will not be winning any athletic competitions any time soon, but a freak accident during pregame warm-ups didn't help his cause. Dragovic said he rolled his right ankle when he landed on a ball two minutes before tip-off.
"It happens," he said with a shrug.
Coach Ben Howland said he was notified of the injury just moments before the start of the game. But how does he justify playing 6-foot-10 center J'mison Morgan just two minutes while the Ducks were having their way on the glass? How does Dragovic get 34 minutes on a bad ankle? How does Lane, who was dealing with ankle issues too, get 23 minutes? Howland's choice of player rotation was just one of the things that seemed puzzling Saturday.
Dragovic wore a protective boot following the game and added that X-rays would be taken Sunday morning. He said he would be sidelined until at least Wednesday. Dragovic had been questionable for Saturday's game after sustaining a left-shoulder injury while diving for a loose ball on Thursday. Yet, he went into the treatment room at 8 a.m. Saturday for a cortisone shot and was able to play through the pain.
"I could shoot at least," Dragovic said.
Like many times this season, shooting with accuracy was his problem.