Los Angeles Times

Bona’s status remains up in air

- staff and wire reports

To sit or not to sit, that remains the question facing Adam Bona.

Should UCLA’s freshman center fight through leftshould­er soreness to play in the Bruins’ NCAA tournament opener against massive underdog North Carolina Asheville on Thursday at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento or rest in hopes of being closer to full strength in a tougher matchup?

Bona’s level of soreness and ability to contribute are the factors that will determine whether he plays against the Bulldogs, UCLA coach Mick Cronin said Wednesday.

“He’s going to have to play through some soreness at some point if we’re still playing,” Cronin said, adding that Bona continued to progress in his recovery from the injury suffered against Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament. “But he would never be put in harm’s way for his career.”

Bona completed “some stuff ” in the team’s practice Wednesday, according to Cronin, and participat­ed in the informal session open to the public. He mostly relied on his right hand in the latter practice, using it for a hook shot in the lane during one drill in which the rest of the team’s big men finished around the rim with their left hands.

The second-seeded Bruins might be able to persevere without their top interior defender given that senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. is expected to draw the big defensive assignment against North Carolina Asheville’s Drew Pember, a 6-foot-11 power forward adept at shooting three-pointers and drawing fouls.

Pember has made 37.3% of his three-pointers this season and leads all Division I players in free throws attempted (314) and made (262).

“He’s going to be a point of emphasis on the defensive end for sure,” Jaquez said.

Alabama’s Miller receives threats

Alabama star Brandon Miller was accompanie­d by an armed security guard to the NCAA tournament because of threats directed his way, Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said.

Miller’s name surfaced last month in court testimony involving the capital murder case of former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man, who are charged in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris on Jan. 15.

The Crimson Tide (29-5) is a No. 1 seed in the tournament for the first time in school history. They play their opening game in the South Region on Thursday, facing No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Birmingham — less than an hour's drive from the Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.

The guard, who wore a gun, badge and Alabama polo shirt, accompanie­d Miller to the interview area and later watched him take part in a light practice.

The freshman, who was the Southeaste­rn Conference player and newcomer of the year, declined to go into specifics about the extra security, implying it was nothing unusual.

First Four men Arizona State 98, Nevada 73:

DJ Horne had 20 points and Arizona State raced to a big halftime lead and scored the most points ever in a First Four game, burying Nevada. Desmond Cambridge Jr. — a Nevada transfer — scored 17 points as Arizona State (23-12) led 53-26 at the half and then kept up the pressure on the way to the rout. The Sun Devils next face Texas Christian in a West Region firstround game Friday.

Fairleigh Dickinson 84, Texas Southern 61:

Ansley Almonor scored 23 points and Fairleigh Dickinson earned its first NCAA tournament win in four seasons. The Knights held a 14-2 lead after a 12-0 run in the opening 3:29 and never gave up its lead. Grant Singleton scored seven points during a 19-6 run in which the Knights led by as many as 18 points at the end of the first half. Fairleigh Dickinson shot 50% and advanced to the East Region to play top-seeded Purdue in Friday.

First Four women Mississipp­i State 70, Illinois 56:

Jessika Carter had 22 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, Anastasia Hayes added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Mississipp­i State beat Illinois to begin the NCAA tournament. Mississipp­i State (21-10) advances to the field of 64 to take on No. 6 seed Creighton. The Bulldogs improved to 14-3 in the NCAA tournament since the 2016-17 season.

Sacred Heart 57, Southern 47:

Olivia Tucker scored 13 points to lead Sacred Heart. Teammate Kelsey Wood had 11 rebounds. Next up for Sacred Heart is No. 1 Stanford on Friday.

 ?? Michael Caterina Associated Press ?? ILLINOIS’ MAKIRA COOK, center, tries to keep the ball away from Mississipp­i State’s JerKaila Jordan, left, and Ahlana Smith (1) during a First Four game.
Michael Caterina Associated Press ILLINOIS’ MAKIRA COOK, center, tries to keep the ball away from Mississipp­i State’s JerKaila Jordan, left, and Ahlana Smith (1) during a First Four game.

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