The UCLA Bruins have lost the first two games of their college basketball season to lesser opponents at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Now Reeves Nelson and the Bruins look to get into the win column roughly 3,000 miles away as they open the Maui Invitational against the Division II Chaminade Silverswords on Monday night.
Monday's 6:30 p.m. PST contest is merely a prelude to Tuesday, as the UCLA vs. Chaminade winner battles the Georgetown vs. Kansas winner in the semifinals of the three-day tournament. But the Bruins need to get back on track, no matter their opponent.
Nelson has been reinstated from suspension and is expected to play in Maui. He was suspended for poor conduct and missed Tuesday's 86-66 loss to Middle Tennessee State. Nelson led the Bruins in scoring and rebounding last season.
"I acknowledge there are corrections that need to be made and I'm grateful to Coach Howland to have this opportunity to improve and work on being a positive for our team," Nelson said on Thursday. "I appreciate the support of my teammates and will be there for them as we move forward."
Aside from Nelson, center Joshua Smith will be a key for the Bruins. He is averaging just 18.5 minutes per game in the first two contests of the year, neither started by Smith. The folks at Bruins Nation think Smith should be inserted into the starting lineup.
People forget how intimidating Josh is and he can dominate. He can scare people," wrote DCBruins on Sunday. "Josh has fouled out exactly once in his last 20 games. I am not saying fouls don't sometimes limit Josh but the larger issue for Josh is conditioning. Josh is in more danger of passing out than fouling out right now. Let him start the game and set the tone. He really does change the game when he is in."
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