Bruins keep hope alive

In case anyone missed it, Josh Shipp has played some decent basketball lately.

“Just being aggressive,” he said. “Just being confident.”

In case anyone missed it, the UCLA swingman offered a reminder Thursday night.

As in 17 straight points during a four-minute stretch in the first half. As in 27 points for the game, a season high for the Bruins.

And while it would be wrong to say that Shipp’s performance made all the difference in his team’s 79-54 victory over Oregon State at Pauley Pavilion, he certainly put the rout in a routine evening.

“He let everything come to him,” Coach Ben Howland said. “Just had an unbelievable half.”


The victory kept 20th-ranked UCLA (23-7, 12-5) in second place in the Pac-10 and within striking distance of a tie for the conference championship, depending on what happens this weekend.

It also raised hopes that a player who has struggled at times during his career might be heating up for the postseason, averaging almost 19 points over the last five games.

“When he’s shooting the ball,” backcourt mate Darren Collison said of Shipp, “he makes it easier for the rest of the team.”

Oregon State Coach Craig Robinson noticed.

“It was like he was shooting in his yard . . . not playing anybody,” Robinson said. “It was like a free-for-all.”

Meanwhile, the Bruins were busy winning a game they needed to win.

Earlier in the week, Howland had set the table for Oregon State by raising the specter of UCLA’s upset loss to Princeton in the 1996 NCAA tournament.

He was talking about famed coach Pete Carril’s patient, passing, back-cutting offense that took the Bruins down, 43-41, in that game. He was tracing a bloodline.

Robinson played for and learned from Carril. Now he has brought this style of basketball to Corvallis and revamped a program that went 0-18 in Pac-10 play last season.

The Beavers (13-15, 7-10) made their intentions known early, using a whirlwind of screens and passes to run down the shot clock on each possession and stick close through the first 10 minutes.

They were led by Lathen Wallace and Seth Tarver, on their way to 15 and 13 points, respectively.

Then Shipp took control.

Coming out of a timeout with 7:43 remaining, he went on a tear, scoring UCLA’s next 17 points as the Bruins opened a lead they would never come close to relinquishing.

Shipp scored inside and from the free-throw line. He sank a floater as the shot clock expired and made consecutive three-pointers. All of which added up to 22 points in the first 20 minutes as UCLA took a 43-19 lead before he shifted into cruise control.

That wasn’t the only subplot.

Collison had a career-high 11 rebounds. And the parents of center Alfred Aboya were in attendance, making the trip from Cameroon.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen him play since he was a boy,” his father, Baliaba Aboya Casimir, said through an interpreter. “It’s wonderful.”

The senior struggled during the first half, looking nervous before finishing with nine points and three rebounds. He said his parents “don’t even know the rules of basketball. . . . I will tell them that I played great.”

He can also tell them that, with 21st-ranked Arizona State losing at home to Stanford, the Bruins got a little more breathing room in the upper reaches of the Pac-10 standings.

The real scoreboard watching doesn’t start until Saturday afternoon. If the Bruins can defeat Oregon, they’ll be watching a later game in Seattle, knowing that if front-runner Washington loses to Washington State, they grab a share of the conference title.

But that comes later. On Thursday night, all eyes were on Shipp.

“It’s funny because I went to the bench and a few guys were like, ‘Hey, you got 17,’ and I kind of laughed,” he said. “I guess I just got in a rhythm and knocked down a lot of shots.”