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COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Shipp goes to his left in Bruins' win

Ucla 78, Louisiana Tech 55

December 29, 2008|David Wharton

The left-handed dunk was wide open. Josh Shipp had the ball. What else could he do?

"I mean, if I'm out there, I'm going to play as hard as I can," he said.

The UCLA swingman ignored the tape wrapped tightly around his left thumb, the sprained ligament that had kept him out of action for two games last week. He dunked with his bad hand, then came back down the floor and did it again.

Those two plays served as the major highlights on an otherwise sleepy Sunday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion as 13th-ranked UCLA eased to a 78-55 victory over Louisiana Tech.

"It hurt a little bit but that's part of the game," Shipp said of his strong moves to the basket. "You've got to play through it."

Despite a lack of drama, the Bruins' victory served two important purposes.

First, it provided an immediate retort to questions about whether Shipp belongs in the starting lineup. In his absence, Michael Roll had taken Shipp's starting spot and shot 75% from the field.

Shipp answered by attacking the rim, making six of eight shots almost exclusively from short range to lead the team with 16 points. He also had three rebounds and two steals in 22 minutes of play.

"I think we feel more comfortable when he's on the floor," said guard Jrue Holiday, who scored 12 points. "He's a leader, so just having his presence really helps."

The game also represented a final tuneup heading into the start of Pacific 10 Conference play. UCLA (10-2) travels to Corvallis to face Oregon State on Friday night.

Coach Ben Howland sounded guardedly pleased on a number of fronts. He liked his defense and the contributions from the bench.

"I actually thought it was a good game for us from the standpoint of playing [against] a lot of zone," he said. "Because Oregon State . . . is a team that plays 40 minutes of zone."

In fact, Louisiana Tech showed a variety of defenses.

The Bulldogs (6-7) came out with three-quarter-court pressure, then rotated through various man-to-man and zone looks, none of which seemed to bother UCLA much.

Freshman guard Jerime Anderson (11 points) sparked the Bruins with a pair of three-pointers and a floater in the lane, three consecutive baskets that stretched an early lead to 14 points. Then, as Roll was struggling to finish with five points off the bench, Shipp heated up with his two dunks.

"We are not going to face any teams with the physicality and strength like UCLA," said Louisiana Tech Coach Kerry Rupp, whose school plays in the Western Athletic Conference.

At the other end of the court, Louisiana Tech never seemed to get comfortable against UCLA's defense.

The Bulldogs went for long stretches without a basket as leading scorer Kyle Gibson, a Dorsey High alumnus, kept missing from long range and center Kenneth Cooper shot three for 12.

Forward Magnum Rolle fared better, leading all scorers with 17 points. But, as a team, the Bulldogs made 36.8% of their shots and, just as costly, committed 21 turnovers.

"That killed us," Rupp said. "Again, hats off to them."

With the legendary John Wooden attending his first home game of the season, and drawing a standing ovation, there was even more for the Bruins to feel good about.

Alfred Aboya continued his strong play at center, scoring inside and making all four of his free throws. Playing with a bandage over his right eye -- he took a shot to the face for the second time in recent days -- Aboya had 12 points and six rebounds and drew several charges.

Point guard Darren Collison, one of the team's best shooters, finished with two points -- taking only three shots, making none -- but had a season-high 10 assists against only one turnover and had three steals.

"I think it shows that Darren's really not interested in who scores," Howland said. "All he cares about is winning."

Holiday missed three of his first four shots -- he has looked out of sync on offense lately -- but found a rhythm in the second half and also led the team with 10 rebounds.

Now the Bruins get a few more days of practice before heading north.

And maybe Shipp can spend the week without anyone questioning his status in the lineup, though he denied caring about any of that.

"We're just excited to get into Pac-10 play," he said. "That's what we do here -- we try to win Pac-10 championships."

--

david.wharton@latimes.com

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