LOS ANGELES -- Three-time defending Pac-10 champion UCLA appears ready to compete for another conference title.
Josh Shipp returned from a two-game absence to score 16 points, and the Bruins (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 13 AP) never trailed in beating outmanned Louisiana Tech 78-55 Sunday.
Freshman guard Jrue Holiday added 12 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and five assists. Alfred Aboya had 12 points and six rebounds, and freshman Jerime Anderson scored a career-high 11 points for the Bruins (10-2), who took a 20-point halftime lead in breezing to their sixth straight victory. They have won those six games by an average of 26.3 points.
The Bruins return to action Friday night at Oregon State in the Pac-10 opener for both teams.
"The whole purpose of the nonconference schedule is to get ready for conference," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We have five of our first seven games on the road. I'm hoping our veteran leadership will be key for that.
"It was good to play against a zone again today. Oregon State plays zone for 40 minutes, but we've played against it plenty this year."
As one of three UCLA seniors who play on a regular basis, Shipp is a significant part of the veteran leadership Howland spoke about.
"I definitely think this team's improving," said Shipp, who missed one-sided victories over Mercer and Wyoming with a sprained ligament in his left thumb. "A lot of young guys are stepping up."
The 6-foot-5 forward shot 6-of-8 in UCLA's first matchup with Louisiana Tech before leaving for good with 8:05 left. Included were a pair of left-handed dunks in the first half.
"I thought Josh, being out for a week, had a nice game," Howland said. "He let the game come to him."
Shipp pronounced himself fit after the game.
"It felt good," he said. "It wasn't like I missed any reps, I practiced all week. I wasn't tentative at all. It hurt a little bit, it's part of the game. I played through it. I'll just ice it down and continue to get more treatment."
Shipp's return sent Michael Roll back to the bench. Roll, who scored 41 points in the two games Shipp missed, including a career-high 25 against Wyoming, had five points and five rebounds in a reserve role, shooting 2-of-7. He shot 15-for-22, including 9-of-12 from 3-point range, in UCLA's previous two games.
Darren Collison, who brought a team-leading 15.5-point scoring average into the game and had reached double figures in each of the Bruins' previous 11 games, scored only two points but had a season-high 10 assists.
The Bruins played without freshman guard Malcolm Lee, who injured his left knee in practice Friday. Lee, who scored a career-high 16 points in the Wyoming game, will be re-examined Monday.
"They are a very good team, and they are well-coached, well-prepared," Louisiana Tech coach Kerry Rupp said. "We knew we had to be our best going in. We got some good shots, but we made 21 turnovers and that killed us."
Anderson matched his previous career high with eight points, Aboya added six, and UCLA forced seven turnovers in taking a 22-8 lead in the opening 10 1/2 minutes.
Shipp scored six points during an 11-0 run that made it 35-12 before Gibson's 3-pointer ended a 5 1/2-minute Louisiana Tech scoring drought. It was 37-17 at halftime, with the Bulldogs shooting just 24.1 percent to UCLA's 45.5 percent and committing 11 turnovers to five for the Bruins.
"I thought our defense was very good in the first half," Howland said. "I also thought we got some very good minutes off the bench, especially Jerime Anderson. He came in and shot it well and made some good passes."
Shipp made two baskets during a 15-5 run to start the second half, giving the Bruins a 30-point lead, and Louisiana Tech didn't threaten after that. The Bulldogs play their next game Saturday night at San Jose State in their Western Athletic Conference opener.
"This was a good opportunity for us; we know that in our conference, we are not going to face any teams with the physicality and strength like UCLA," Rupp said. "But that is our goal. We want to play like that. This type of competition lets us know where we want to be."
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