Fifth-ranked UCLA is scheduled to return to the court for the first time in 26 days when it meets Long Beach State on Thursday in nonconference action at Los Angeles.
The contest was added on Wednesday and marks the second time the teams will face each other this season. The Bruins routed the Beach 100-79 on Nov. 15 and are 18-1 all-time against their neighbors to the south.
UCLA (8-1) has been in a lengthy COVID-19 pause that led to the cancellations of three games and the postponements of two Pac-12 contests. A game against Arizona State was postponed — initially slated for Jan. 1, rescheduled for Jan. 5 — for the second time on Tuesday, and Long Beach State was rounded up to fill the opening.
The contest will be played in a nearly empty Pauley Pavilion with only families of team members allowed inside due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
The game will be the first for UCLA since a 67-56 win at Marquette on Dec. 11.
The Bruins’ COVID-19 outbreak led to canceled games against Alabama State (Dec. 15), North Carolina (Dec. 18 in Las Vegas) and Cal Poly (Dec. 22). It also resulted in a contest against Pac-12 foe Arizona (Dec. 30) being postponed as well as the scheduled Saturday contest with Arizona State.
The rescheduled game for Wednesday was postponed due to the Sun Devils’ COVID-19 outbreak.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin was among those who tested positive for COVID-19.
Cronin tested positive hours before the start of the Alabama State game. Less than an hour before tipoff, that game was canceled.
Some UCLA players resumed workouts and participated in light practice sessions last week but Cronin was proceeding cautiously.
“It’s going to take us a while because injury is my biggest concern,” Cronin told the Los Angeles Times earlier this week. “You start asking guys to play at a certain level before their body’s ready to play, that’s the biggest concern for me.”
Johnny Juzang averages a team-best 16.6 points for the Bruins. Jaime Jaquez Jr. ranks second (14.8).
UCLA may have big man Cody Riley on the floor for the second time this season. He sprained the MCL in his left knee less than eight minutes into the season opener against Cal State Bakersfield on Nov. 9.
Long Beach State (4-7) completed its own long break between games — 23 days — with a 90-64 victory over NAIA program Westcliff on Wednesday night.
The Beach had six straight cancellations — the first two due to COVID-19 issues in their program and the last four due to opponents’ outbreaks.
“The whole thing feels surreal,” Long Beach State coach Dan Monson recently told the Orange County Register. “We started the season with everyone double vaxxed and we could have fans in the stands, and now we’re right back where we were. It feels like a time warp.”
The game against Westcliff was added Tuesday when Cal State Fullerton pulled out of that night’s contest due to its COVID-19 issues.
Colin Slater scored 23 points to lead the way against Westcliff.
Joel Murray, who had 13 points on Wednesday, averages a team-best 15.6 points. Slater averages 13.5.
Murray (30 points) and Slater (27) both established career highs in the earlier loss to the Bruins. Juzang scored 25 and Jules Bernard added a season-best 22 for UCLA.
–Field Level Media