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December 28, 2008

Louisiana Tech at UCLA Preview

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After injuring his foot last season, Michael Roll could only watch as other UCLA players grabbed his minutes. Now, he's the one benefiting from a teammate's injury.

Starting in place of Josh Shipp, Roll looks to continue his solid run when the 13th-ranked Bruins host Louisiana Tech on Sunday.

Roll was a key member of UCLA's rotation in six games last season before rupturing the plantar fascia in his left foot. He was awarded another year of eligibility, so he's considered a junior for the second straight year.

The swingman worked his way back this season to become a top reserve again. He was forced into the starting lineup last week after Shipp - second on the team with 11.2 points per game - went down with a sprained ligament in his left thumb, and Roll has taken full advantage of the opportunity.

He scored 18 of his career-high 25 points in the first half on Tuesday night, and the Bruins (9-2) overwhelmed Wyoming 113-62 for their fifth straight victory. Last Saturday, Roll filled in with 16 points in a 76-59 win over Mercer in his first start in nearly two years.

"He'll definitely get more minutes the way he's playing now," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I'm happy for Mike. You think what he had to go through last year with his foot injury. He's definitely earning more and more playing time."

Howland said that Shipp, a senior who has started 110 games in his career, will return to the lineup when he is healthy and if all goes to plan Shipp will return to action today against La Tech.

Shipp's absence, though, hasn't hurt the Bruins at all.

The Bruins' 59 first-half points versus the Cowboys were their most since scoring 61 against Portland on Dec. 14, 2002, and their 113 points were the most since a 114-97 win over Cal State Northridge on Dec. 19, 1998.

Roll averaged 15.3 minutes in UCLA's first nine games this season. He played 33 against Mercer and 26 against Wyoming.

"That's what every player hopes for," Roll said of his increased playing time. "That's not under my control. I'm just going to play as hard as I can when I'm in there."

Roll has been particularly sharp from 3-point range, going 5-for-7 against Wyoming and 4-for-5 versus Mercer. He's shooting 60.0 percent (21-for-35) from beyond the arc this season.

This will be UCLA's last tuneup before its first Pac-10 game at Oregon State on Friday night. The league boasts some of the nation's top defensive teams.

Roll has taken some of the scoring burden from Darren Collison, who leads the Bruins with 15.5 points and 4.8 assists per game. Collison had 19 points and seven assists against Wyoming.

Louisiana Tech (6-6) also relies heavily on its guards, with Kyle Gibson and Jamel Guyton manning the backcourt. Gibson and Guyton average 16.5 and 13.8 points, respectively.

Gibson had 23 points and Guyton added 15 to lead the Bulldogs to a 72-67 victory over TCU on Monday night.

Gibson shot 7-for-7 from the field, including three from 3-point range. He's shooting 44.1 percent from beyond the arc this season.

This will be the first meeting between UCLA and Louisiana Tech.



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