Injuries strike hard early in conference season

Published: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Four teams in the Top 25, and one that was ranked earlier in the season, were hit with injuries to key players last week.
Three of the players already had returned after missing games with an injury this season. All the injuries will have an impact on teams expected to be in the NCAA tournament.
D.J. White had a stress fracture in his left foot in one of Indiana's exhibition games and missed the first seven games of the season. He returned during the ninth-ranked Hoosiers' six-game winning streak as they reached their highest ranking since Dec. 16, 2002. But White, the Big Ten's freshman of the year last season, broke the same foot - not in the same place - and is expected to miss four to six weeks, and possibly the rest of the season.
White was averaging 9.2 points and 6.0 rebounds and he helped give the Hoosiers a strong post presence with Marco Killingsworth. He was injured in Saturday's win over Ohio State and the Hoosiers lost 87-73 to Michigan State in their first game without him.
"It was devastating to him, and some of his teammates," Indiana coach Mike Davis said. "When he came back, we were a top-five team, that's what (the players) were saying and feeling."
UCLA forward Josh Shipp will be sidelined for the rest of the season because of increasing pain and discomfort in his right hip. The 6-foot-5 sophomore had an arthroscopic procedure on Sept. 28.
After missing the first 11 games of the season, Shipp started the 11th-ranked Bruins' first four Pac-10 games and averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 29.8 minutes.
Shipp, who averaged 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman, said, "I just decided I couldn't do it the whole year, there was just too much pain."
Cincinnati forward Armein Kirkland will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. He was injured in a 70-59 loss to No. 4 Connecticut on Monday, the day the Bearcats entered the Top 25 for the first time this season.
Kirkland twisted the knee while shooting. He was expected to have surgery at the end of the week. Kirkland, a senior leader for interim first-year coach Andy Kennedy, has averaged 9.7 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Alabama senior forward Chuck Davis tore both the ACL and MCL in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season. He was averaging 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Crimson Tide, who were ranked as high as 15th before falling out of the poll. He was trying to block a shot last Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener against Mississippi. Davis said doctors told him he won't be able to get back on the court for three to six months.
Top-ranked Duke welcomed back sophomore swingman DeMarcus Nelson last Sunday against Wake Forest. Nelson, who missed nine games after breaking his right ankle in the Preseason NIT semifinals, injured the same ankle just before halftime of his second game back, against Maryland on Wednesday.
He had a bone bruise on his right ankle and was considered doubtful for this weekend's game against Clemson.
--- SOME ATTITUDE: Chuck Davis had his senior season at Alabama cut short with a devastating knee injury that required major surgery and will keep the forward off the court for three to six months.
Davis, whose mother died unexpectedly last spring, graduated with a degree in consumer marketing in December. He said he wasn't going to let the injury make him feel sorry for himself.
"Stuff happens. Life throws you a curveball sometimes, and it's just another obstacle that I have to get through," he said. "There's no reason to get down. I know people are saying, 'Who wouldn't?' But I'm looking at the positive side, and hopefully surgery will go well and rehab and I'll be back as soon as possible."
--- EASY POINTS: Gonzaga's J.P. Batista shot between 300 and 500 free throws most days last summer. Teammates Adam Morrison and Derek Raivio take just as much pride in their performance from the line.
Those three are a big reason the sixth-ranked Zags led the nation with an 81.5 percentage on free throws (295-for-362) through Monday night's win at Santa Clara.
"We've got a lot of guys who take pride at the free throw line. It's free points. It's a form of offense," Morrison said. "We try to use it to our advantage."
In a West Coast Conference sweep of Saint Mary's and Santa Clara to begin the league season, Gonzaga went 43-of-47 from the line - 12-of-12 by Raivio, 9-for-9 by Batista and 14-of-15 for Morrison, the country's leading scorer.
"The guys who are getting a lot of free throws are great free throw shooters," coach Mark Few said. "J.P. shot like 500 every day this summer. He's the most meticulous, driven worker. There's a reason why they're shooting like that. Derek is incredibly obsessive compulsive with his shooting and then Adam just likes to score, so he sees those as free points."
Batista had no idea Gonzaga was leading the country.
"Are we?" he asked. "Whoa! I didn't know that. Wow, that's great. It's good for the team. It's good for us. We have a high confidence in those shots."
Morrison compared Gonzaga to the Harlem Globetrotters and the circus for the attention the Bulldogs have been generating.
They see sellouts most everywhere they go, and fans sport makeshift mustaches to mock Morrison's facial hair - which he insists he won't shave. He is thriving on the attention, and gets a kick out of checking out the creative fans.
"We're Led Zeppelin in the '70s or something," said Morrison, with his shaggy locks and retro striped socks. "It's a fun atmosphere and it's fun taking everybody's best shot every night. ... I've had this mustache for a couple months now. It's the first one I've ever gotten, and I'm keeping it for a while. Everybody's going to talk trash, but what people don't realize is it adds fuel to the fire. I've heard it all - about my mustache, my diabetes. It's OK. It's all in fun."
--- BAY AREA BLUES: Ernie Kent has no idea why his Oregon Ducks have had such troubles on their annual trip to the San Francisco Bay area to play California and Stanford.
Oregon has lost 11 straight Pac-10 games in Northern California and hasn't won at either place since beating the Golden Bears in Berkeley on Feb. 12, 2000. The Ducks are 1-12 on the trip since the 1999-2000 season.
Despite the Ducks' recent struggles, Kent is seeing signs of improvement.
"Even though we came up empty-handed on this Bay Area trip, we actually got better as a basketball team," said Kent, whose future at the school is in question. "If we can grow from what we accomplished down here, come back home and protect our home court, we'll be a different team going out on the road."
Oregon, which began the season with four straight victories, lost for the fourth time in five games last Saturday at Stanford - a disappointing 64-62 defeat in which the Ducks had a chance to tie at the buzzer.
Guard Aaron Brooks thought he got fouled on his final shot when he drove to the basket. Oregon's players know that some of their problems are bad luck, but that they also have plenty to correct.
"We've got next year to come back and retaliate," Brooks said. "A lot of season to go, so we're going to try to get these other wins."

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