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December 21, 2008
LOS ANGELES(AP) Starting forward Josh Shipp couldn't play for UCLA on Saturday night because of a sprained ligament in his left thumb.
The 14th-ranked Bruins didn't miss him one bit.
Michael Roll filled in with a season-high 16 points in his first start in almost two years, and No. 14 UCLA never trailed in beating Mercer 76-59 Saturday night for its fourth straight victory.
Roll, a 6-foot-5 junior, shot 6-of-7 - going 4-of-5 from 3-point range - to help the Bruins win their 34th straight nonconference game against unranked opponents at Pauley Pavilion since a 75-60 loss to Notre Dame on Feb. 28, 2004.
Shipp, a senior averaging 11.2 points, has started 110 games in his UCLA career including all 39 last season and UCLA's previous nine this year. Roll, a 6-foot-5 junior making his seventh start in 90 career games, entered with a 5.7-point average. He fell a point shy of the career-high 17 he scored against Washington on Jan. 14, 2006.
"Michael Roll has been shooting it consistently in practice and tonight he showed his touch," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "He's also improved his defense from his first two years and is playing the best ball of his career."
Roll credited Collison and the rest of his teammates for getting him the ball when he was open.
"I didn't want to press it tonight, just let the flow come to me," Roll said. "I didn't want to force anything out there."
He didn't, as evidenced by his shooting efficiency.
Howland said Shipp is doubtful for Tuesday night's game against Wyoming.
"The swelling's already gone down dramatically since last night," Howland said. "It's not broken. Hopefully it will heal quickly."
Darren Collison scored 20 points, Alfred Aboya had 14 points and seven rebounds, and freshman Jrue Holiday added 10 points and four assists for the Bruins (8-2), who had no trouble in their first meeting with Mercer, which won road games against Alabama and Auburn last month.
"That's a good Mercer team, they were not going to be intimidated on the road," Howland said.
The Bruins held James Florence, Mercer's leading scorer, to nine points. Florence, who scored 23 points against Alabama, 25 against Auburn, and 30 in a season-opening 96-81 victory at Southern California last season, shot 3-of-11.
"Darren Collison was fantastic on Florence," Howland said.
UCLA shot 49.1 percent to Mercer's 50 percent and forced 20 turnovers while committing only 11 themselves. The Bruins have held eight of their 10 opponents to 60 points or less. Mercer, which averaged 73.6 points in its first 10 games, has scored at least 70 eight times.
"Collison played really well for them," Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. "He kept making those big shots which really stopped our runs.
"Obviously, we played a great team. I thought we competed. This is a tough environment. We got 46 shots tonight; you're not going to win with that."
Roll outscored Mercer 10-4 by himself to give the Bruins a 52-37 lead with 13 1/2 minutes remaining. The Bears weren't closer than nine points after that. It was 54-45 when Collison scored six points during an 8-0 run that gave the Bruins a 17-point lead with 6:40 left.
Holiday scored the game's first five points, Collison added a layup to give UCLA a 7-0 lead, and the Bruins extended their advantage to 14-3 in the opening five minutes, shooting 5-of-6 to start the game while Mercer began 1-of-9.
But the Bears battled back, drawing within five points on five occasions before the Bruins settled for a 40-31 halftime lead.
The Bruins, 6-0 at home this season, entertain Wyoming on Tuesday night and Louisiana Tech next Sunday before opening their Pac 10 season Jan. 2 at Oregon State.
Mercer was playing the second of seven straight road games. The Bears play Monday night at Loyola Marymount and Dec. 31 at Iowa State before returning to Atlantic Sun Conference games Jan. 3 at Campbell. They're 1-1 in league play.