Monday, September 25, 2017
Page 715

Jasmine Dixon to UCLA

Jasmine Dixon confirmed last night that she is enrolled at UCLA and will play basketball there beginning this December.

Dixon made headlines in early December when she suddenly dropped out of the Rutgers basketball program and announced she was transferring schools. Rumors have circulated that Dixon was considering UCLA, among other schools, but no official announcement has been made.

Dixon was sporting a UCLA Bruins sweatshirt at last night’s UCLA-OSU game. She said she begins classes at UCLA on Monday, and has to sit out of play until a year after she left Rutgers, as per NCAA rules. She added that she is looking forward to joining the Bruins team.

A graduate of Long Beach Poly High School in Long Beach, Calif., Dixon guided her team to a third consecutive state title last year, was voted one of the top players in the state by coaches, and was a McDonald’s All-American. Dixon was one of a highly-touted Rutgers freshman class of five. She said she left the program because she didn’t like it there.

Tennessee and UCLA: a tale of two comebacks

Tennessee 55, Rutgers 51

Even two hours later, I’m still in disbelief at what the Lady Vols pulled today.

The first half was so painful to watch that I was fighting to keep from turning my head away. Tennessee didn’t even score until eight minutes had gone by. They trailed 13-33 at the half, with the smallest point total in a half in the history of the program.

Trailing 40-49 in the second half, the Vols went on a run at the 6:40 mark. Sophomore Angie Bjorklund, who had a lackluster performance in the first half, was taken to task by Coach Pat Summitt at halftime. Summitt asked her how she could show up big at the Gonzaga game Tuesday and fizzle at this game. Bjorklunk said “you’re right” two times, and she responded. All 12 of her points came in the second half, the most crucial of which came at the 1:30 mark, when she hit a jumper to give her team their first lead of the game, 51-49.

Rutgers’ Epiphany Prince missed the next shot, and Tennessee’s Shekinna Stricken was fouled. She hit both her free throws to put the Vols up 53-49 with 39.8 seconds left. Prince hit a tough shot in the lane to cut the lead by two, but her attempt to force a jump ball failed when Kia Vaughn missed her shot. A Rutgers scramble for the ball missed, and it was possession, Tennessee. Rutgers quickly fouled Bjorklund, an 81 percent free throw shooter, and she hit both her shots to seal the game.

The 55-51 game snapped a 20-game home winning streak for the Scarlet Knights.

Of course I must give props to the young team. They stepped up when their coach asked them to, and they never gave up. That’s my favorite characteristic in a team, followed extremely close by “hunger to win,” which the Vols have too.

Yet I also give credit to Summitt, who has grown and evolved over the years and isn’t afraid to embrace the new. She was composed throughout this game, and especially at the last timeout, at 53-51, when the game was still in question. She told the team to switch up and not to foul, and by god they didn’t foul. I don’t think Pat yelled once.

994 victories for the most winning coach of all time. Only six more to 1000.

UCLA 60, Oregon State University 53

In a strangely similar game last night, UCLA started out horribly and then kicked in to high gear to beat Pac-10 contenders OSU.

The Beavers dominated the game early, riding the strong shoulders of center Alex Mitchell, who couldn’t seem to miss anything. They had put 13 points on the board before Bruin senior Chinyere Ibekwe finally scored at the 13:49 mark.

UCLA Coach Nikki Caldwell had already called a couple timeouts, but none of the players were making adjustments. At the 10:06 mark the Bruins were behind 4-21, and Caldwell called another timeout. This time she walked out on to the court, eyes ablaze, and met the entire team at the top of the key, where she proceeded to yell at them.

“You’re getting your butts kicked at home! You should be embarrassed!”

Then the damn band started playing so I couldn’t hear the rest of the tirade. But three minutes later the Bruins finally woke up, and they went on a 19-1 run for the remainder of the half. Erica Tukianien hit a wicked three; Ibekwe blocked a Mitchell shot; Tuki passed to Doreena Campbell, who passed to Nina Earl for the layup; Earl got hot and scored three more baskets. All good things, but what really stuck out to me was that UCLA finally started playing defense. For their efforts, they lead 25-24 at the half.

The Bruins started looking more like themselves in the second half. Earl and Ibekwe worked in tandem a couple times, and Campbell got hot again. Christina Nzekwe, uncharacteristically quiet the first half, came alive and started pulling down more rebounds, as well as scoring.

OSU tried to make a run in the middle of the period, but then they missed a couple shots – even Mitchell missed, finally. With 5:33 to go, the Beavers made another run, and with the help of Mitchell and point guard Mercedes Fox-Griffin, they cut the lead to 48-52. But it was Moniquee Alexander, who was having an off-game, that provided the momentum for her team to close out the win. After about two minutes of an unmoving score, she made a power move under the basket, against three opponents, for the lay-in and the bucket to put UCLA up 54-48 with 1:20 to go. The Bruins never looked back.

Caldwell echoed what I’d been thinking in her post-game interview, saying that it was their defense that got them back into the game. The interviewer mentioned that the Bruins shot 8-10 free throws down the last stretch, and such shots have been a weakness for the team.

“Lately in practice we’ve been doing a free throw drill where you shoot for your teammate,” Caldwell said. “If you miss, your teammate runs.”

Great idea.

Next up for UCLA: Oregon, tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Tennessee finally heads back to Knox Vegas after its long road trip, where they will face Kentucky on Thursday.

Carolyn Peck on Nikki Caldwell

A long-figured, familiar face was sitting courtside at last night’s UCLA-OSU game: Carolyn Peck. The longtime coach and sports commentator was in town to catch Coach Nikki Caldwell and her Bruin team play the first game of their Pac-10 Conference schedule.

Peck, who was assistant coach at Tennessee during Caldwell’s senior year in 1993-94, said Caldwell is special.

“She has ‘it’ when it comes to coaching,” Peck told me.

Peck said she recently talked to Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt, and asked the legendary coach what she thought of the record of Caldwell, who left Summitt’s program in April to take the UCLA job.

“Pat said she wasn’t surprised at all, that she expected that from Nikki,” Peck said.

After the game, Peck dropped by the Bruin locker room to congratulate Caldwell and her assistant coaches Tasha Butts, Stacie Terry and Tony Perotti.

Wanted: Scouting Co-Pilot

Maxpreps.com released their top 25 teams in California list Thursday, and I am not surprised by it at all.

1. Mater Dei
2. Cajon
3. Brea Olinda
4. St. Mary’s
5. Hanford
6. Long Beach Poly
7. Foothill
8. Clovis West
9. Carondelet
10. Troy
11. Santa Monica
12. Inglewood
13. Sacred Heart
14. Bishop O’Dowd
15. St. Paul
16. Oak Ridge
17. Summit
18. St. Ignatius
19 Archbishop Mitty
20. St. Paul’s
21. Bishop’s
22. Millikan
23. Deer Valley
24. Bellarmine-Jefferson
25. Monte Vista

(Full link: http://www.maxpreps.com/california/state.aspx?state=ca&urpath=,national)

In fact, I had already scoped out a game between Cajon and Brea Olinda on Jan. 24, at Cajon. I must check out these squads, as well as the outstanding Brea freshman who was named to the TOC First Team a couple weeks ago. And it’s here where I’m throwing out an offer.

My main basketball friend doesn’t seem interested in attending high school games, for whatever reason. So I am looking for someone who might like to go to some games with me, to scout and report on teams. I’ve created a want ad for this job. Anyone can apply, as the job is not necessarily limited to one person.

WANTED

Complete Hoophead – Batwoman seeks Batgirl or Batboy for high school girl’s basketball game consumption 1-3 times per week. Candidate must possess full-throttle passion for the women’s game on all playing levels, from AAU to WNBA. Strong game knowledge required; moderate high school team knowledge accepted. Candidate must be outgoing, able to tolerate Batwoman’s tendency to shut down and hunch over into the fetal position during close games, be a watcher and pick up little things, and contribute to overall report. Voracious basketball appetite and ability to sit through multiple games (such as in tournaments) a must. Age, sex, race, sexual orientation, spiritual philosophies unimportant. Sanity a must. Applications are taken in the comments section.

Link to maxprep rankings, which change every few days or so:

http://www.maxpreps.com/california/rankings.aspx?state=ca&urpath=%2cnational%2ctabs

Brittney Griner = beast?

I’ve been hearing about Brittney Griner for a long time now. Since she signed with Baylor, I hear even more.

A couple days ago, Griner had an incredible game. Her 38 points out-scored the entire team of opponents. She also grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked 12 shots for her 15th double-double of the season. If that wasn’t enough, her first and last bucket were dunks, upper her total to 30 so far this year.

Here’s the story:

http://www.brazossports.com/basketball/Bryan-can-t-slow-down-Nimitz-s-6-8-post

The game before that, Griner had five dunks. Video:

http://www.kbtx.com/sports/headlines/36913834.html#

Of course there are naysayers who maintain that Griner is one-dimensional and over-hyped because “all she does is dunk.” Her stats seem pretty complete, though. Maybe those are the same people who like to say Candace Parker isn’t that good. Whatever the case, I am looking forward to seeing Griner play college hoops next year.

Baugh sustains knee ligament sprain

NEW JERSEY – Tennessee forward Vicki Baugh suffered a left knee ligament sprain today in practice – the same knee in which she tore her anterior cruciate ligament last April. But an X-ray revealed that the ACL is fine, and that Baugh sprained her lateral collateral ligament.

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt told the Knoxville News Sentinel that Baugh was relieved to find out it was not her ACL. The Sentinel reported that Baugh had fallen to the court and “reacted in a strong, spontaneous fashion.”

(I wish they’d say what exactly that means).

The Vols, who are in town to play Rutgers Saturday, apparently are the target of resentment from Scarlet Knights Coach C. Vivian Stringer, according to the piece. Referring to last year’s controversial Vols win after a clock malfunction, Stringer told the Sentinel that “she’ll remember that.”

A lot of subplots, to be sure. Here’s the link:

http://www.govolsxtra.com/news/2009/jan/01/baugh-sprains-surgically-repaired-knee-practice/

I’m lovin the footnote that Shannon Bobbitt visited the Vols today.

Pausing to remember

Shayla Llanos, a Broward Community College (Florida) freshman, died last night after collapsing during a game earlier. The 19-year-old from New Jersey fell to her knees during play and was revived at the scene, but later died at the hospital. Not much more information is available, but here is some:

http://www.nj.com/south/index.ssf/2008/12/shayla_llanos_salem_high_schoo.html

Last week, Alabama State University freshman center Richelle Jones died in a one-vehicle accident:

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20081224/NEWS01/812240341

The death of a young person is always heartbreaking. When it is a young athlete, not only family and friends but teammates are effected. As we go into the new year, I pray for comfort and healing to surround the loved ones and friends of Shayla and Richelle. And may their spirits rest in peace.

Danielle LeNoir sustains concussion, sits out

Washington State University freshmen point guard Danielle LeNoir sustained a concussion in the team’s game against Idaho Dec. 13, and has missed all three of the Cougars’ games played since then.

Spokesman Joe Nickell said LeNoir is “day to day,” and that he didn’t know whether or not she would play in this Saturday’s game against Washington.

LeNoir, of Los Angeles, is the younger sister of USC point guard Camille LeNoir.

Stats are a many-splendored thing

With Texas’ 60-55 loss to San Diego State tonight, they are removed from the list of teams that are still undefeated. Notre Dame came close to being upset, but they hung on to beat Vanderbilt by two. The unbeaten teams are:

Auburn
Connecticut
Illinois-Chicago
Kansas State
Mississippi State
North Carolina
Notre Dame
Richmond
Texas A&M
Wake Forest
Wisconsin-Green Bay

I appreciate the stat freaks on rebkell.net, who have tallied the results of all the conference games over the last three days, since games resumed after the holiday. The game results are interesting, to say the least:

Big East 20-0
Big 12 12-1
ACC 16-3
SEC 13-5
Pac-10 4-6

The Pac-10 had been 4-4 going into tonight, but USC and Washington both lost. What is up with those two programs? I wish I knew.

Finally, I enjoyed watching the Tennessee-Gonzaga game even though I wasn’t there, and it’s not just because the Vols won. The Zags are very good and they don’t give up, and I like that. Lyssi Brewer’s no-look pass to Vicki Baugh under the basket, and later on, Baugh’s behind-the-back crossover as she went up for a layup, gave me the vapors. Tennessee is starting to gel, and it’s a scary thing because conference play hasn’t even begun yet.

On the non-game tip, I really like the homemade T-shirts of Angie and Jami’s parents Kris and Jim Bjorklund – “TennZaga.” Hell, I remember seeing the sisters playing in the state playoffs at the Tacoma Dome in 2005…………

All but five of tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve games will be played early. Only three of the top 25 teams will hit the hardwood: Connecticut, Duke and Ohio State.

Sheryl Swoopes, color analyst and commentator

For whatever reason, 2008 Seattle Storm acquisition Sheryl Swoopes decided to stay in the Emerald City after the WNBA season ended. Her son Jordan is enrolled in a local school, and Swoopes is reportedly enjoying life in the city with little sun.

Tonight she will expand her resume to include sportscasting, as she will call tonight’s University of Washington game at Hec Edmunson Pavilion, where the Huskies will take on Kansas State.

It appears out-of-area fans can listen to the broadcast on KKNW’s live stream feed:

http://www.newschannel1150.com/

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