Saturday, September 22, 2018
Page 787

It’s official

UCLA announced Jasmine Dixon’s transfer today:

http://uclabruins.cstv.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/010509aaa.html

Oregon 73, UCLA 56

I took two of my girls to the game today and it was the birthday of one, so we partied afterward. This was also a straightforward one-team-plays-great-while-the-other-team-plays-crappy game. And I’m going to a high school tournament tomorrow, so this won’t be a long post.

The Ducks came out blazing from the get-go, took the lead and never looked back. They played mad D, Taylor Lilley was making ridiculous shots and couldn’t miss, and Micaela Cocks and Jasmin Holliday also came up big for their team.

The Bruins looked lethargic, and their brilliant moments were way too far and few between. They shot 36.8 for the game to Oregon’s 55.6. But what concerns me is that their rebound total today was 35, which is what it’s been the last few games. And that’s way below the 50-plus per game they were getting a couple months ago, and doesn’t even match their season average of last year. Even worse in today’s case was that the Ducks only had 25 rebounds.

“We’re going to have to focus on getting better in our man-to-man defense,” Coach Nikki Caldwell said in the post-game interview.

She added that with a week until their next game, against USC, they would use the time to “get back to their defensive scheme.”

Oregon looked very good today, and it wasn’t a surprise to me. I have wondered for many weeks how they have been losing as much as they with the assistant coaches that are on board.

Caldwell was uncharacteristically quiet for her; she didn’t yell at the team, and at the end of the game she took a seat on the bench.

Oregon Coach Bev Smith did the opposite, remaining quiet for most of the game before coming alive at the end, standing and shouting to the Ducks. After she went through the hand slap line afterward, she turned around and walked the other way to slap the hands of her own squad.

The Ducks and their many fans, which helped fill Pauley Pavilion, were extremely excited about the win, and with good reason: Oregon had been swept by USC and UCLA for the past four consecutive seasons. Three Ducks are also Southern California natives: Lilley and Tatiana Thomas of Newhall, and Jasmin Holliday of Chino Hills. An especially large contingent showed up to cheer on Holliday. They also stayed after the game and waited until the freshman finished up a radio interview so they could cheer her as she walked across the court towards them.

Bruin notes:

Today was the second consecutive game that Tierra Henderson sat with the team on the bench in street clothes. The senior guard was suspended from the squad indefinitely last month for a violation of team rules.

New recruit Jasmine Dixon was again at the game today. She got some kind of paperwork on a clipboard from one of the team assistants, took it back to her seat and proceeded to fill it out with an older woman sitting next to her. I looked back over less than 10 minutes later and both women, as well as a young girl sitting with them, were suddenly clad in large blue UCLA sweatshirts. It looks like things are moving along.

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.

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