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Shipp’s status is up in air

Times Staff Writer

UCLA’s Josh Shipp is eager to play against his younger brother, Jerren Shipp, when the Bruins face Arizona State on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.

But UCLA announced Tuesday it remained a game-time decision after holding Shipp out of the USC game Saturday because of a slight tear in his right hamstring.

“It feels a lot better,” Shipp said before practicing hard for about an hour Tuesday. “I definitely feel I could play. I felt I could play against USC. But I’ve got to go on the advice of the doctors.”

Ultrasound images showed improvement in the injury, but UCLA Coach Ben Howland has said he would like to err on the side of caution to avoid a chronic problem. And though it would seem an opportunity to rest him against Arizona State, 6-11 overall and 0-6 in the Pacific 10, Howland certainly wasn’t saying that.

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“Arizona State is going to be a team that will definitely beat somebody,” Howland said. “We just hope it’s not us Thursday night.”

Josh Shipp said he and Jerren, a Sun Devils freshman averaging 7.5 points with 11 starts in 17 games, have been excited about the potential matchup.

“He wants me to play,” Josh said. “It’s not me versus him. It’s UCLA versus Arizona State.”

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Lorenzo Mata, working to improve his 32.6% free-throw percentage, attempted 150 shots from the line Tuesday morning -- and made 119, Howland said.

“He made 79.3%,” Howland said. “Seventy-seven of the first 100, and 42 of the last 50.”

That seems to support the contention by Howland and the Bruins that Mata makes free throws in practice, just not in games.

“The way to get confidence is lots of reps,” Howland said after increasing Mata’s shots from a typical 25 to 50 a day to 150.

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Mata says he feels confident despite the misses, and Howland grinned at a question about consulting a sports psychologist.

“I’m the psychologist,” he said.

On a more technical level, a main focus is simply getting Mata to focus his eyes on the rim and not follow the flight of the ball.

For all the talk about Mata’s shortcomings, Howland made sure people remembered it wasn’t Mata’s late misses, but USC’s, that ended up helping to decide a one-point UCLA victory Saturday.

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“SC missed the front end of three one-and-ones,” he said.

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It’s so clear that fouling Mata down the stretch in the tradition of Hack-a-Shaq will be a likely tactic against the Bruins that Howland tried a preemptive move by lobbying the Pac-10 for officials to call intentional fouls in such cases.

Howland said he spoke to Bill McCabe, the league coordinator of officiating, about the foul USC committed away from the ball in the final minute, arguing it should have been whistled intentional, giving UCLA two free throws and possession.

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Howland said McCabe told him he already had spoken to the official who made the call, Michael Reed, and that Reed said it was his judgment that it was not intentional.

UCLA officials even offered reporters a printout of the rule, citing fouls away from the ball that are not directly involved with the play as potential intentional fouls, “based on the severity of the act” and the “official’s observation.”

Consider it a game effort by Howland to plant a seed in the mind of officials and opposing coaches. But it is still a judgment call -- one seemingly likely only if the foul is egregious or risks injury to the player.

“We understand they’re going to foul him,” point guard Darren Collison said. “I think he understands that he does have the lowest free-throw percentage on the team.

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“As long as he understands he has to make them down the stretch, that’s fine with us.”

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robyn.norwood@latimes.com


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