Already without one of its top freshmen, UCLA hopes an injury will not keep another from taking the court Thursday night.
After narrowly avoiding a major upset in their second game of the season, the No. 13 Bruins hope to have freshman guard Kyle Anderson in the lineup against visiting James Madison as they continue regional play in the Legends Classic.
With prized freshman Shabazz Muhammad still ineligible for what the NCAA cited as a violation of amateurism rules, UCLA (2-0) blew an early 12-point lead and needed overtime to beat UC Irvine 80-79 on Tuesday. Fellow freshman Jordan Adams scored 26 points off the bench and Anderson added 10 with seven rebounds as the Bruins overcame 37.8 percent shooting at newly renovated Pauley Pavilion.
"We were lucky. That was a very fortunate win for us," said coach Ben Howland, whose team is off to a better start than last season, when the Bruins opened with home losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee.
The 6-foot-9 Anderson, who joins Muhammad, Adams and big man Tony Parker in one of the top freshman classes in the country, played 33 minutes Tuesday despite injuring his hand in the first half. Howland said Anderson is expected to have an X-ray.
With Muhammad out indefinitely and key reserve Tyler Lamb in danger of missing his second straight game because of a sore knee, the Bruins hope Anderson's injury won't force him to miss any time. Tuesday's performance proved they might not be able to get by on raw talent alone.
UCLA is saddled with high expectations but has shot 21.4 percent (6 of 28) from 3-point range and was outrebounded 55-44 by UC Irvine.
Adams, however, has done his best to make up for his team's early shortcomings by totaling 47 points on 12-of-24 shooting in his first two collegiate games. His 26 points Tuesday, which included a 16-of-16 effort from the free-throw line, were the most by a UCLA freshman since Kevin Love scored 29 against Western Kentucky in the 2008 NCAA tournament.
"As a freshman he has an uncanny ability to put the ball in the basket," said teammate Larry Drew II, UCLA's lone senior. "I'm not surprised by anything he does."
Adams feels he's been able to take what's being given by the opposition and insists he's not trying to fill the offensive void left by the absence of Muhammad, the 2012 Naismith high school player of the year who chose UCLA over Kentucky and Duke.
"I see openings and I think I score at the appropriate time," Adams said. "It's not anything about missing Shabazz."
Adams hopes to continue his strong play when the Bruins face James Madison for the first time as part of the Legends Classic, which continues next week at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
This is the season opener for the Dukes, who went 12-20 in 2011-12. They are led by senior guard A.J. Davis, who averaged 15.9 points and 4.7 rebounds last season.