UCLA forward Reeves Nelson and center Joshua Smith, returned to practice Tuesday after missing Monday’s workout because of injuries, but the status of both players for Thursday’s key Pac-10 game at Arizona is still unknown.
Nelson, a 6-foot-8 forward averaging 13.9 points and eight rebounds to lead the team in both categories, sprained his ankle Saturday against Stanford and was in a walking boot until Tuesday. He practiced in a limited capacity Tuesday and was held out of live drills that involved contact.
Smith, a 6-10 freshman, missed the Stanford game after leaving last Thursday’s game against California because of a head injury suffered when he fell to the floor. He was also limited in practice Tuesday, though he did participate in some contact drills.
“He’s had test upon test, but he’s passed everything,” coach Ben Howland said.
Smith played only six minutes against California and Nelson played the latter part of the Stanford game after rolling his ankle in the middle of the second half, but UCLA managed to win both games. Howland he would determine their availability for Thursday's Pac-10 showdown with Arizona at game time.
The Bruins’ chances of defeating Arizona diminish if their top two post players are unable to go. Arizona’s top player is 6-8 forward Derrick Williams, who is second in the Pac-10 with 19.7 points a game and is third in the conference with 8.1 rebounds a game.
Arizona (16-4, 5-2) and UCLA (13-6, 5-2) are currently tied for second place in the Pac-10 and the winner has a shot at getting into a tie for first by the end of the weekend.