Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shipp's Return Key To Bruins' Chances

By Bruin Basketball Report

If UCLA expects to dethrone the current NCAA champions Florida Gators on Saturday, they'll need a solid performance from sophomore forward Josh Shipp.

Of this year's starting Bruin line-up, only Shipp did not play in the 2006 NCAA championship final against Florida.  He had red-shirted two months earlier as a result of a surgically repaired hip which was still causing severe pain and required more time to heal.

Instead of running the floor with his teammates at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Shipp was cheering helplessly from the end of the bench as the Bruins went down in defeat.

As a result, Shipp dedicated himself to work hard over the offseason to get back into shape.  He started the 2006-07 campaign promisingly enough, averaging 14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds while shooting 46.6% from the field and 34% from three-point distance in his first 15 games.

But in a game against Oregon in Eugene, Shipp suffered a hamstring injury which forced him to miss the following contest against crosstown rival USC. 

In the nine games following the injury, his performance numbers plummeted. Shipp was averaging just 10.0 points a game and shooting a
meek 2-17 for 11.8% on three-pointers while averaging only 2.7 rebounds during the span. And in some quarters, he was being criticized for lackadaisical defensive effort.

But time heals all.  In his last ten games, including all three NCAA tournament contests, Shipp has returned to form by averaging 14.0 points on 48.1% field goal shooting, including a sizzling 42.5% from three-point distance, while grabbing 4.6 rebounds a game.  In addition, he has played solid defense during the tournament which included a four steal performance against Kansas.

With Shipp back on track, UCLA now has the third-option on offense they sorely lacked against Florida in last year's game.   

We'll find out if its enough to make the difference.  A healthy and active Josh Shipp, as much as anything else, will be a key to a UCLA victory on Saturday.

(photo credit: Jack Rosenfeld)



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