Sunday, June 25, 2017
Page 696

UCLA 87, USC 75

UCLA surged late in the second half Sunday afternoon to decisively beat USC, 87-75. The win marked the first time the Bruins had defeated the Trojans in the regular season in over four years, snapping a seven-game losing streak to USC.

“I told the team, ‘this is going to be our game,’ and they bought into it,” Coach Nikki Caldwell said.

It was USC that got off to a strong start, taking a quick 10-2 lead in just over two minutes of play. Ashley Corral hit some crucial shots, as did Nadia Parker, and the Trojans seemed particularly adept at breaking UCLA’s full-court press.

Then the Bruins ralled with a 9-0 run to take their first lead, 11-10, at the 15:29 mark. USC fired back, and were still in the lead by a few at about 6:45, when UCLA made another 9-0 run to regain the lead. Bruin guard Doreena Campbell scored five of her team’s points during the last few minutes of the half, and UCLA lead 40-34 going into the locker room.

USC scored the first eight points of the second half, including buckets by Briana Gilbreath and Camille LeNoir. By the 16:24 mark, the Trojans were ahead 45-41. A few moments later, when Bruin reserve guard Alison Taka hit a three to tie the score, a basket-trading fest began. The lead changed eight times before UCLA freshman Rebekah Gardner hit a three to tie the game at 58, with under 10 minutes to play. This sparked a 14-2 Bruin run, and the team never looked back.

Campbell was amazing, with 20 point, nine rebounds and four assists. Gardner scoried a career-high 13 points. But the Beast of the Day Award went to Chinyere Ibekwe, who wrestled down 10 rebounds and put up 17 points. She was under the basket everytime it mattered yesterday, and her defense helped shut USC down.

And speaking of defense, USC’s Brynn Cameron never had a chance yesteday, as she was consistently double- and triple-teamed. She scored only three points. The Trojans that shone were LeNoir, with 20 points, and Corral, with 16.

After lapsing the last several games in rebounds, the Bruins were back up to where they were earlier in the season, grabbing 55 team boards yesterday. They only committed 14 turnovers. This appears to be what won the game for the Bruins, as they shot 37.3 for the game to the Trojans’ 43.8.

And what is indeed up with USC? I’ve been wondering that for weeks now – especially after seeing them lose to Duke a few weeks ago. The Trojans are obviously loaded with talent, especially in the shooting department. I don’t understand how a team this stacked with All-Americans could have an 8-6 record.

A USC fan who attends every game said it’s the irregular rotations and erratic substitutions that throw the players off; they can’t get into a rhythm.

Whatever the case, it’s unfortunate that those players are under-utilized.

Notes:

– Tierra Henderson played her first game since being suspended prior to the Dec. 14 game for a violation of team rules. She played 16 minutes and had one assist, two points and three rebounds. It was nice to see her back.

– Jasmine Dixon, who joined the team last week after transferring from Rutgers, took the mic prior to the game and welcomed the 5,203 fans present. She sat with the Bruins, in street clothes, on the bench.

– It was such a pleasure to see that many fans at Pauley Pavilion for the game. The student section even stood throughout the game and made noise, just like they’re supposed to.

UCLA staffers said the large number of kids at the game was due to a “UCLA Day” tour they had that day.

– Celebrity sightings: Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman. She sat courtside during the game, and at halftime came into Daniel’s and my section to say hello to people. It was nice to see her.

UCLA football coach Rick Neuheisel was also there to take in the game. I’ve heard from a reputable source that he’s very friendly with and supportive of the women’s basketball team.

Next up for UCLA is Arizona State, on Thursday.

Tennessee, Rutgers lose

Big win for Vanderbilt over the Lady Vols today, whom I understand played like crap (box score shows only Alex Fuller in double figures – yikes!)

I guess Commodores Coach Melanie Balcomb decided to treat the Tennessee game as something special this time around. I understand having the practice guys wear orange head bands, but I don’t get playing “Rocky Top” and putting orange mats in front of the locker room. What was she saying there? I feel like someone told a joke thinking it was obvious, but it’s not.

Story link:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/recap?gameId=290110238

And then – holy craparoly, but Rutgers lost again today. Third consecutive loss, and the first time they’ve lost that many in a row since 1995-96.

The thing that impressed me most about the game story was that Louisville Coach Jeff Walz immediately began talking to his team after the handshake line. Not to be a party pooper, but because he really is serious about building something:

“We’re trying to get our program to the next level, where they’re talking about us like they’re talking about Connecticut, Notre Dame, Rutgers,” Walz said.

Story link:

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncw/recap?gameId=290110097

UCLA had a big win over USC today at home, and I’ll provide a game report tomorrow.

Fairfax Tournament/LA City Showcase

I always enjoy this premiere high school girl’s basketball tournament, and this year was no exception. There was a lot of high-quality ball played, and I was delighted to see a big chunk of it. Living at the tourney was even easier this year because some friends of mine were selling their basketball-themed T-shirts there. I’d watch a game, talk with them on breaks, and go watch another game. Most of the time, Monique went with me to watch the games, leaving her partner in crime to do the sales. Sweet deal.

Title game, Jan. 10: Washington Prep 55, Fairfax, 42

It was not surprising to see these two athletic teams face off in the championship game. What was unexpected was that it took almost three minutes into the first quarter for anyone to get some points on the board – and they were they were Washington free throws, at that. A few seconds later Fairfax got a point from a free throw, and after that, it seemed like a damn broke and the real game was “on.”

The Generals went on a run. Reshanda Gray scored on a put-back, then hit on an in-bounds pass; Tayllor Gipson had a nice pull-up jumper from the left corner; Kejuanna Gardner made a sweet backboard shot; Jazmin Gray ran for a layup; Gardner assisted J. Gray on an outside shot. Washington was up 14-3 with about two minutes left in the quarter.

The Lions began to fight back in the middle of the second quarter. Point guard Priscilla Walker made a few crucial points at the end of the first, but the heroics that had saved her team earlier in the week weren’t working yesterday, as her shots weren’t falling. Nor were the free throw shots of her team, at first. But Fairfax was able to capitalize on a two suspect calls from the refs (who were horrible, by the way) to cut Washington’s lead to 18-15 at the 2:56 mark.

It was at this point that the refs demonstrated their incompetency: when Walker drove into the lane, one ref called a charge and the other, a block. Everyone had stopped, and they stared at each other. Then, just like in the WNBA, all three refs had to have a conference about it.

Walker was given her free throw shots, but Gardner then hit from the left, and then Gipson hit two from the charity stripe. Fairfax’ Jasmine Grayson hit a pull-up jumper at the end, leaving Washington with a 24-19 lead at the half. Gardner had played the entirety of both quarters.

The Lions came into the half on fire, hitting their first two shots, getting steals, and responding to every Washington basket. The athleticism of both teams was on tap. In one instance, six players from both teams were on the floor fighting for a loose ball. Later on, Gardner passed high to Cheyenne Bonam, who caught it mid-air as her body was sideways, the shape of an upside-down “L.” The Generals were up 35-30 at the end of the third.

Both teams continued to battle in the final quarter, and Fairfax stayed within 3-5 points. Candyse Farmer was amazing, stealing the ball again and again, then streaking down the court for the fast break. (Monique had nicknamed her “Steal” earlier in the week).

Gardner was ridiculous. She was doing everything – taking the ball up court (at 5’11”), snatching rebounds, getting the ball into the hoop repeatedly – and sometimes on amazing turn-around jumpers. On one play, she took it up the court, drawing two defenders. She head-faked left and then leaned right and did a one-hand push bounce pass to her teammate, who scored. Both the Lions who had been in pursuit of Gardner fell to the floor.

With about two minutes left to play, Washington broke it open by scoring, while Fairfax committed costly turnovers. They were ahead 49-42 with 57 seconds left, but with the help of a lot of (literally) last-minute free throw shots and two runaway shots at the end, the final score was 55-42.

The game was everything you’d want in a championship game: it was fast-paced, exciting and close most of the time. The crowd was great, too, because while there were fans of both teams, there wasn’t any taunting or unsportsperson-like conduct.

Named to the all-tournament team were Fairfax’ Grayson and Farmer, and Washington’s Gardner, R. Gray and Gipson; Gardner was also the tournament MVP.

“Whenever we can stay focused against the press instead of throwing the ball away, we’re doing fine,” Generals Coach Ricky Blackmon said of his squad.

Gardner had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals in the game. Two days earlier, in the semi-final, she scored 21 points.

I also give props to Fairfax’ Walker, who had 21 points in her team’s victory Tuesday.

Third and fourth place: Carson and Poly (Sun Valley)

What the heck happened to Carson in the last year? They were a solid squad in 2007-2008, but this year they are contenders in every sense of the word: outside shooting, defense, athleticism, ball movement.

After Thursday’s semi-final against Washington, I asked Carson Coach W. Marcel Sanders what he’d done over the course of a year, and he just smiled and said, “hard work.” Well, sign me up.

The Generals and the Colts will be battling it out in coming weeks for the Marine League title, and the quest started Thursday. Carson built an early lead in the first quarter and kept it going the entire game. Washington was down by at least 12 most of the time, and as much as 17 at one point.

But thanks to a late fourth-quarter rally, sparked and carried by Gardner, Washington pulled out the win. This sent the Generals to the finals and the Colts to the third-place match, which they won yesterday.

Carson is extremely impressive this year. Monique and I were especially amazed by the outside shooting of Chante Miles and Daphne Rabot. And Miles is only a sophomore! Stay tuned.

Washington and Carson will play their first league game Friday night at Carson, and like the Jackson Five, I’ll be there.

Poly of Sun Valley is an up-and-coming team. Their coach (whose name isn’t on maxpreps) was cool and knowledgeable, and the girls all played their butts off every time. They easily handled Roosevelt and Garfield before losing to Fairfax on Thursday. This team has a lot of potential.

It was kind of a long haul; I saw 12 games at this tournament. But I’m going to do it again next year.

Final note: Kejuanna Gardner is a beast. A hungry, aggressive, glowering-with-determination beast.

Shock match Sparks’ offer and keep Kara Braxton

Ah, the Sparks’ quest to fill Candace Parker’s shoes isn’t going to be easy. Their first coup has failed:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Shock announced Friday they have matched the offer sheet Kara Braxton signed with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Coach Bill Laimbeer said in a release that Detroit’s philosophy “is not to allow other teams to steal our players away with money.”

Details of Braxton’s contract were not released. She is a native of Jackson, Mich.

The 24-year-old former Georgia star was selected by Detroit with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2005 WNBA draft. She has averaged of 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 131 games.

Braxton averaged 8.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33 games last season, helping the Shock win their third WNBA championship, and second in three years.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

Link:
http://sports.espn.go.com/wnba/news/story?id=3822534

Cait McMahan gives up basketball career due to injury

University of Tennessee redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan decided earlier today to cut short her collegiate basketball career due to persistent problems in her right knee. The 21-year-old guard will become a student assistant coach for the Lady Vols.

“I have to face reality and accept the fact that my knee can’t take the day-to-day pounding to play for this team,” McMahan said in a statement from the Univeristy. “I’ll try to continue to be a leader for my team from the sidelines.”

Since first tearing her ACL in November, 2005, while still in high school, McMahan has undergone numerous surgeries to repair the knee, the last of which was in September. She arrived at her decision to stop playing after consulting with her doctors, Coach Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee officials, and team Athletic Trainer Jenny Moshak.

Full release here:

http://www.utladyvols.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/011009aad.html

Maria Cornelius, a scout.com reporter who covers the Lady Vols, penned a longer piece that ran on the University of Tennessee website today. Among other things, Cornelius chronicled McMahan’s difficult last few years, which included losing her mother to cancer in May of 2007.

Those of us who follow the team had a feeling this day was coming, albeit not so soon. McMahan is to be applauded for her courage in stepping away from the game she loves for the good of her health. She will make a great addition to the Lady Vol coaching staff.

Courtney Paris is December WCBA player of the month

A couple days late (thanks, bballfan2005), but still news: Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris is December’s Women’s College Basketball Association Division I national player of the month for December.

Paris averaged 17.2 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks in five games in December, while playing just 25.2 minutes a game. She shot 77.3 percent from the field, connecting on 33-of-44 field goal attempts. Her rebounds and field goal percentage led the Big 12 in December.

Full link: http://www.wbca.org/Releases/DecemberPOM2008.html

I like the list of honorable mentions; looks like the judging is fair.

The Pac-10 still has a way to go, and other things

Stanford killed Washington tonight, 112-35. California beat Washington State 68-45. Previously-thought-of-as-good Oregon State continued its free fall to 0-3 in conference play in losing to Arizona State tonight (previously thought of as washed up). Oregon continued its momentum from Sunday, beating Arizona.

So I guess Washington isn’t that good. People had been making excuses for them before, but maybe they really are just bad.

I’m concerned about Arizona, though, because they only played seven tonight. Four of the starters played all 40 minutes – that’s rough on an athlete. What’s going on? Is everyone injured or sick? I need to call their media relations department and find out.

And as for parity in the Pac-10 – it’s going to be a lot slower in coming that some would like. For now it’s still the Cal and Stanford show.

On the upside, Ashley Walker moved up to second on Cal’s all-time scoring list tonight.

In other parts……..

Tennessee held on to beat the worst team in the SEC tonight. A W is a W, but I was nervous for a bit, because The Kim was texting me that they were tied with Kentucky at the same time the game I was watching at the Fairfax Tournament became tied. (More on that tourney in a little while, when it’s all over, but it’s been great!)

And in what sounds like the most exciting game of the evening, Georgia Tech’s Jacqua Williams scored a bucket with 3.4 seconds left in overtime to put the Yellow Jackets up by one. But Boston College’s Mickel Picco scored on a driving layup with less than a second left to win the game for her team, 65-64. I’m bummed about that because I’ve enjoyed seeing GT finally take its place in the top 25 this season, and with Williams, of Seattle, leading the way. Hopefully the Yellow Jackets can get back on their feet quickly.

Tomorrow, the only top 25 team playing is #10 Duke.

Myself, I’m going to check out the JC game of my kids tomorrow (for the second time this week – I’ve been busy).

I love this time of year.

More Parker fall out

Sparks General Manager Penny Toler said the team has made an offer to Detroit Shock restricted free agent Kara Braxton and is considering going after a pair of unrestricted free agents — Tina Thompson and Lauren Jackson.

Toler also said her reaction on hearing the Parker news was simple.

“Wow, just wow,” Toler said. “That’s kind of my reaction to so many of Candace’s plays. Wow.”

Now it’s up to Toler to figure out how to make Sparks fans say “Wow” until the wow woman herself comes back to play.

Full link:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/sports_blog/2009/01/repercussions-o.html

From the “Beyond the Arc” Sparks newsletter sent to season ticket holders today, an interview with General Manager Penny Toler:

LASparks.com: What’s in the works for the Sparks?

PT: We’re doing what everybody else is doing. Going after the free agents and hoping that we can land the best of them. You have Tina Thompson, Lauren Jackson and Michelle Snow out there – that’s just to name a few. There are a lot of players out there. There are also a lot of restricted free agents out there and we will be putting offer sheets down on some of them. So we’re doing what everyone else is doing.

LASparks.com: What does it mean for the Sparks that Candace is pregnant?

PT: First things first, we’ll wait for her. She’ll be back, she wants to get back and she’s anxious to get back. At the end of the day as the GM, this is why you prepare the team from top to bottom. Candace is pregnant; it isn’t the end of the world. What about teams that have players out for torn ACLs or back and foot injuries? A pregnancy is nothing compared to some of that stuff and we’re extremely happy for her. I always try to prepare the team from top to bottom because every year someone could be out and at the beginning of this year, it will be Candace.

LASparks.com: How exciting is it knowing that there are tons of great players in the free agency game right now?

PT: It’s really exciting because the league has gotten tougher and you need a lot of good players to win a championship and we want to be in the running every year. Whether it’s Tina, Lauren, Michelle or whoever else is available – we’re going to continue to go after them. My job is to make this team stronger and it’s not just a matter of preparing the team for 2009 but for 2010, 2011 and beyond.

LASparks.com: What expectations do you have for 2009?

PT: Our expectation is to win a championship. What is our nickname out here in L.A.? The City of Champions. Our goal is always to win a championship and there is not a team in L.A. that would tell you that they don’t set out every season to win a championship.

LASparks.com: What are you most looking forward to in 2009?

PT: I’m definitely looking to get out of the Western Conference Finals. I thought we had a great run last year but at the end of the day we don’t have a title. So once again I’m looking forward to putting the best players out there and I think it helps that our players have already been together for a season. There won’t be many changes here, there will be some but going forward, we’re looking to win a championship.

LASparks.com: Going into your 10th season as GM, what have you learned that has made you so successful?

PT: I would say just being in the LA environment. You do your best; in LA you always have to work to be the best and I strive to be the best I can be. Every year I prepare the team win and LA is never in a rebuilding year. We don’t rebuild, we compete for titles. Going into my 10th year, my goal is the same as it was in my first: we’ve got to win a title and that’s every year.

Since the news was made official yesterday, the Sparks are really blitzing us with communications.

Great piece on UCLA’s Chinyere Ibekwe

Great piece in today’s Daily Bruin about the senior forward, who is working hard in her senior year instead of getting by on her athleticism alone:

http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu/news/2009/jan/08/sdf/

A lot of players are in the same boat.

The story explains that none of this growth would be taking place without first-year coach Nikki Caldwell, who has helped “push her to her athletic limits as never before.”

Even before Ibekwe stepped on the court for Caldwell, she had a feeling about her new coach.

“When it was announced that Nikki was our coach, even before I met her, there was something that drew me to her,” Ibekwe said. “When you meet people, you’re either all in or all out, and I was all in with her.”

That is when things started turning around. By deciding she was “in,” Ibekwe committed herself to facing the adversity of her junior year and learning from it.

“(Ibekwe’s success) started with her mental attitude about wanting to have a great senior year. … She’s somebody who has taken that to heart,” Caldwell said. “I think she has taken pride in wanting to be that go-to player inside. But I think it started with a change in her mindset.”

Under Caldwell, Ibekwe quickly realized it would no longer be enough to coast on her athleticism alone. Caldwell pushed her to bring fire, aggressiveness and discipline every day. She is being pushed to her athletic limits as never before.

“You have to make up your mind every day on what type of leader you want to be when you step on the floor,” Caldwell said. “There are days when she’s done that and days when she needed the help of her teammates to get it done. But she is doing it more than she has probably ever done in the past.”

The numbers verify what Caldwell says. Ibekwe has eclipsed her sophomore statistics and leads the team both in rebounding and blocked shots by quite a bit in Caldwell’s system that preaches board play and defense.

And Ibekwe appreciates everything Caldwell has done for her as a senior.

“I feel (Caldwell) had the choice to not deal with me and focus on her younger classmen, but she has really embraced me, asked me to be a leader, and I’m doing as much as I can to help her,” Ibekwe said.

Lady Vols and coaches visit Children’s Hospital

These pictures made me smile – a great team doing a great thing. They need to buy Charles-Furlow some sweats, though. And the picture-clicking sound effect is cool:

http://www.utladyvols.com/view.gal?id=40570

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