Knock on wood

UCLA post player Reeves Nelson (sprained ankle) is questionable for tonight, the kind of problem UA coach Sean Miller has been fortunate enough to avoid.

So far, all 10 of the Wildcats' regular rotation players have played in every game. The only health issues have come to reserves Alex Jacobson (back) and Daniel Bejarano (flu-like symptoms).

Yet Miller knows he better keep knocking on wood.

"You know how this works - things can change on one play, today at practice," Miller said. "We're just trying to be smart with how we practice and take care of ourselves. Injuries and sickness are unfortunately part of the big picture. Some teams deal with it more in a given period of time. You can go a long stretch and be 100 percent and just get decimated all at once."

Miller: TV shouldn't affect players

Playing before an ESPN2 audience might matter to some players, but not the ones Miller wants.

"The more they care, the worse player they are," Miller said. "If they really care, they stink. They can't play. If you can play, you're going to play hard and play well, and you're going to assume that people are watching every game, which generally is the case. But if they have heightened awareness, wear different color shoes or their hair is colored differently, you have a problem."

Bilas an expert on Williams

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas won't be just basing his opinion on UA forward/center Derrick Williams on what he sees during tonight's telecast.

He also has worked with Williams on the court, during a Nike Skills Academy last summer.

"I think he's fabulous," Bilas said. "He's a terrific player and really athletic, with great body control."

Everyone else is noticing, too. Williams has been racing up the mock NBA draft boards, with placing him first last week, and Draft Express moving him from No. 15 to No. 5 this week.

"He'll play in the NBA, but this is not a particularly good year for the draft," Bilas said, "so that helps a lot of guys as far as where they get drafted."

Winning makes everything better

UA guard Brendon Lavender turned 21 on Tuesday, and he's planning a birthday bash Saturday night after the Wildcats host USC.

Chances are, the party will be even more festive if the Wildcats can sweep UCLA and USC. A victory made the Wildcats' normally dreary trip home from Pullman, Wash., bearable last week. Arizona bused 90 minutes to Spokane, then arose on about four hours' sleep to fly for four more hours.

"That bus ride was definitely not as long as it was last year," UA forward Jamelle Horne said. "There was a lot of laughing, a lot of talking. The coaches seemed like they were in a good mood when we got back to the hotel.

"There was a nice little 4 a.m. wake-up call and a long day of traveling, but that's what we came here for."

Sellout likely tonight

Tonight's game will likely have a capacity crowd, according to UA senior associate AD James Francis.

As of mid-Wednesday, the UA had only 100 public tickets and about 400 student tickets available, all of which were available for public purchase.

For Saturday's UA-USC game, the Wildcats have 200 public section and nearly 1,000 student section tickets available, as of Wednesday.

Bruce Pascoe

UCLA at ARIZONA, 7 p.m., ESPN2, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

He said it …

Lazeric Jones "has really made a big difference in their team. He allows certain players to really settle into their roles they're best at. Malcolm Lee is better because he's playing with Lazeric. Tyler Honeycutt benefits because he's playing with a point guard who runs the system. … Reeves Nelson is such a unique player in that he plays much bigger than his actual height. … Josh Smith is a game-changer. When he gets his hands on the ball, bad things happen for your team."

Arizona head coach Sean Miller

USC at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, FSAZ, Ch. 58, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

He said it …

"They give up 69 points a game, and obviously that's the strength of their team. They really hang their hat on that. Most teams like to help, but USC is quite the opposite. They don't want to rotate, and they want to funnel things in to their big guys. With the way they position their bodies and push you to the baseline or the paint, they try to take away the middle of the floor. It takes some getting used to. It's more of an NBA type of deal."

Arizona associate head coach Archie Miller, who scouted the Trojans