Thursday, January 26, 2017

2017 NBA All-Star Reserves

The 2017 NBA All-Star Reserves will be announced tonight, January 26, on TNT. The coaches choice trump what anyone else thinks in this regard but let me get these predictions off real quick, anyway. The criteria is two guards and three front court players are required, plus two regardless of the position. 

West Reserves

  • Guard 1: Russell Westbrook - He should have been a starter. Nuff said.
  • Guard 2: Dame Lillard - This should be CP3 but since can't play makes no sense to choose him. Dame barely gets the nod over his own teammate CJ  McCollum on the strength that he's the man on that team. CJ will get his soon enough.
  • Front court 1: Draymond Green - Make no mistake about it, he's the one who makes it pop for the Dubs.
  • Front court 2: Gordon Hayward - If you don't know why he's here, then you haven't been following the association much this year.
  • Front court 3: Demarcus Cousins - Arguably the best center in the association.
  • Wildcard 1: Marc Gasol - He continues to do above average things between the lines in Memphis.
  • Wildcard 2: Klay Thompson - To the victors go the spoils. It's always been this way although guys like CJ and Karl Anthony Towns are more deserving and will get snubbed.

East Reserves

  • Guard 1: John Wall - In my opinion, he's the most complete point guard there is right now.
  • Guard 2: Isaiah Thomas - He's getting buckets at will right now.
  • Front court 1: Paul George - You don't really hear much about him but he's still one of the best two-way players around.
  • Front court 2: Kevin Love - Funny how winning a championship can make a player relax and be himself.
  • Front court 3: Joel Embiid - He's really feeling himself, as he should because he's balling. The only thing holding him back from greatness is a minutes restriction.
  • Wildcard 1: Kyle Lowry - He gets buckets when they matter most. One of the most underrated players, today.
  • Wildcard 2: Kemba Walker - His team is in playoff position at the moment because of his scoring. I flip flopped between placing Carmelo Anthony here. Paul Millsap might be chosen but he doesn't fit the bill to me.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Long Beach State 49ers 81, UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 76

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1

49ers Earn Tough Win Over Gauchos in Big West Play

Long Beach, Calif.-The Long Beach State 49ers defeated the University of California, Santa Barbara Gauchos 81-76 on Thursday night to notch their second conference win of the season at the Walter Pyramid.

Forward Temidayo Yussuf led the 49ers with 25 points on the night. The sophomore big man could not be contained, as he shot 10-12 from the field.  With the 49ers clinging on to a two-point lead with close to a minute left, they went to what worked for them all night long – pounded it inside to Yussuf.

“I was trying to bring him back [into the game earlier] but every time there was a dead ball, we were on the defensive end,” said Long Beach State Head Coach Dan Monson.

The 49ers won both games against the Gauchos last season, and were desperate to get this much-needed victory to boost their confidence and move up in the Big West standings. To say Long Beach State has fallen short of expectations is an understatement; they were the consensus choice to win the league.  

“The biggest thing for this team right now was to get the taste of some wins,” said Monson. “And that was a good taste for them. Hopefully, we can build on it.”

Yussuf was the main offense for Long Beach State in the early going; he scored 10 of his team’s first 18 points in the game.  Yussuf’s physical play wore down the Gauchos; his aggressiveness set the tone for 49er guards to take over the game.

“It was more of me getting into the flow of it,” said Yussuf. “Once we focus in and lock in as a team, we’re pretty much the best team in the league.”

Trailing by one, Loren Jackson stroked a three pointer to give The Beach a 23-21 lead; he then followed it up by taking charge on the ensuing defensive possession. Noah Blackwell stole the ball on the next defensive possession and found Evan Payne down the court for dunk. Payne, who scored 15, then followed up the crowd pleaser with a three pointer of his own.

Not to be outdone by his teammates, Blackwell also made a three, this one on the break; he had a final stat line of 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Yussuf scored his 10th point in the mix of that sequence, and by the end of it, the 49ers found themselves in control of the game after a 15-2 run.

The Gauchos took advantage of 14 made free throws in the first half to stay within 10 points at the break.
The second half opened up similar to start of the game, with the 49ers dumping it inside. This time it was to Roschon Prince, who finished with 14 points and a game-leading 10 boards.

Gauchos’ guard, Gabe Vincent, got hot early in the second half after not making a basket in the first period and kept Gauchos in game; he made four of five baskets early in the half and tagged his backcourt mate Eric Childress, who took over and scored nine points in four-minute span, including a personal 6-0 run to draw the game even, at 68. Vincent then fouled out at 4:35 mark.

“We weren’t even trying to attack him. I didn’t know he had four fouls,” said Monson. “He’s an all-league player… he didn’t have a field goal in the first half but a good player like that, he sees one go down… and that lit him up.”

The lead changed twice over the next two minutes. A pair of free throws by Prince put the 49ers up 76-74. With the game still in balance and tension in the arena, the home team needed to go to what was working well for most of the night – Yussuf.  The big man went up strong to convert a layup with two Gauchos draped on him to put 49ers up by four and secured a win.

Childress led the Gauchos with 17 points, Vincent scored 16, and Alex Hart contributed 14 points with 10 rebounds. Long Beach State plays at Cal Poly on Saturday.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Saint Mary’s Gaels 72, LMU Lions 60

Saint Mary’s Defeat Loyola Marymount in Conference Opener

LOS ANGELES -- The Loyola Marymount University Lions (7-5) were outlasted by the Saint Mary’s Gaels (11-1) 72-60, as opened West Coast Conference play on their home court on Thursday night at Gersten Pavilion.

The Aussie combo of Emmett Naar and Jock Landale led the way for the Gaels, whom had four players score in double figures. Landale, who was a physical presence on the inside, notched 18 points and 11 rebounds. Naar made big shots every time the Lions made a run.

The Lions were looking for an upset against the 19th-ranked Gaels. There were some moments in the game when it appeared it could be a possibility.  Particularly midway through the second half when the home team used a furious 11-2 run bring the score to a one-point deficit at 42-41 but Naar calmly drained a three to hush the home crowd.

After the game, Saint Mary’s Head Coach Randy Bennett said he was excited to walk away with a win.

“That game could have gone a lot of different ways,” said Bennett “Fortunately, [Naar] hit that three, which got us a little separation. We got a stop and got it to six, and then we kept it. It’s that simple sometimes.”

LMU used an early 7-0 run to strike fear into Saint Mary's and hold a 12-8 lead, but the visitors then immediately settled in by responding with a 10-0 run of its own to seize momentum.

However, the resiliency of the Lions prevented the Gaels from pulling away. LMU controlled the game’s tempo by being deliberate when in possession but failed to put the ball through the hoop, shooting only 35 percent, in the first half compared to 57 percent for Saint Mary’s. The hot shooting gave the visitors a 34-25 halftime lead.

Fresh out of the locker room, LMU turned up the defensive pressure to try to force turnovers but that didn’t work in its favor as they were called for 17 fouls in the latter half with four LMU players fouling out. Saint Mary’s shot 33 free throws in the game to LMU’s 17.

“I look at a foul as a mistake,” said LMU Head Coach Mike Dunlap. “If we can eliminate that disparity, we’ll have a hell of a chance of winning quite a few games.”

Landale, the Gaels’ leading scorer on the season, asserted himself in the second half by making five of seven field goals in that period. His key basket came just past the 10-minute mark, when he scored over Stefan Jovanovich and forced him to commit his fifth foul, which disqualified him from the game.

“They were playing tough defense,” said Landale. “It took us away from things we wanted to do. We just had to counter their physicality.”

Mid-season transfer Trevor Manuel led the Lions in scoring with 18 points on the night. The Lions next host BYU in a New Year’s Eve matinee.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

USC Trojans 82, Troy 77

USC Rallies in Win Over Troy to Stay Perfect

LOS ANGELES -- The University of Southern California Trojans used a late-game rally to defeat the Troy University Trojans 82-77 Saturday night at the Galen Center. This was the fifth game of the season USC that had to come back from a deficit of nine points or more to win.

Junior guard Jordan McLaughlin and sophomore forward Chimezie Metu provided the key offensive plays for USC down the stretch. Down 77-74 with close to a minute remaining in the game, Metu caught a post-entry pass and scored a turnaround jumper. Troy subsequently turned the ball over on an inbound violation and Metu drew a foul shortly after USC began its possession. Metu sank the first free throw to tie the game but missed the second.

Luckily for USC, Metu’s missed free throw caromed into the hands of Elijah Stewart, which set the stage for the game-winning basket. McLaughlin, with the ball at the top of the arch, received a screen and drove down the left side of paint and laid the ball off the glass over two Troy defenders to give USC a 79-77 lead with 41 seconds to go.

“We called their number and they made plays,” said Enfield. “I called a lot down the stretch for Chimezie. He got it going down in the post and kept scoring… We give Jordan a lot of freedom… he’s playing at such a high level right now… I’ll take him over any point guard in the country.”

The home team certainly wasn’t in the clear as Troy had been responding to rallies all game. Troy’s sophomore guard Jordan Varnado found his way to the rim but his layup was blocked by Stewart, Varnado retrieved the ball and tried to score again but his shot was emphatically blocked by an elevated De’Anthony Melton with 14 seconds left. USC gained possession and McLaughlin was sent to the free throw line, where he sank both shots and iced the game.

“We defended down the stretch when we had to and were fortunate to win,” said Enfield. “Troy outplayed us for a long time because they made tough shots… We had a tough time stopping them for most of the game.”

Coming into the game USC was off to its best start since they won their first 16 games in 1971.  Early in the game, USC looked lethargic and appeared they would be hard pressed to win as Troy jumped out to an early nine-point lead and seized control of the game. Junior guard Wesley Person was key for Troy as he made his first three three-point attempts and scored 10 of Troy’s first 15 points and 15, overall, in the first half.

“We switched all the ball screens and they were making 25 footers,” said Enfield. “Instead of driving on bigs like most teams do, they stepped back to shoot long threes, and were making them. They made eight in the first half.

USC made a surge in the final minutes of the first half. Sophomore guard Shaqquan Aaron took a missed shot and went coast to coast to tie the game at 29. A tip in by freshman big man Nick Rakocevic gave USC a 31-29 lead, its first since being up 4-3. Teams would trade baskets the rest of the first half culminating with Troy’s Jeremy Hollimon draining a three with two seconds left to put Troy up 40-38 at halftime.

Troy opened the second half with 10-2 run to with a 10-point lead and regain control of the game, very similar to what the flow was in the first half. The home team would be forced to rally again if they wanted to get a win.

Things began to turn around for USC as they improved play after trailing 51-60 at the 12-minute media timeout. Powered by its defense, the home team slowly crept back into the game. A powerful dunk by Metu, who was found running through the lane by Melton, cut the deficit to 66-65. Melton led USC with five assists off the bench.

A pair of free throws by Stewart gave USC first lead of the second half at 67-66 with 5:35 remaining. A hook shot off the glass by Metu gave USC a 72-68 lead, which was its largest of the game at that time with four minutes left to play. Troy then went on a 9-2 run over the next three minutes to set the stage for the heroics by the home team.

“Give Troy credit,” Enfield said. “They made shot after shot when they needed to.”

McLaughlin led USC in scoring with 21 points. Metu finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. USC’s 10-0 record makes them one of only six division one teams without a blemish in the loss column. Enfield said he was extremely proud that his players would accomplish this without Bennie Boatwright. You would think being off to the basketball program’s best start in 45 years would be cause for celebration but the young Trojans are just focused on improving.

“We just have to come out every game to focus and lock in on that one game,” said Metu. “We try not to worry about what other people are doing.”

USC will try to continue its run versus Cornell Monday

Thursday, November 17, 2016

UConn Huskies 68, LMU Lions 65

Courtesy of Benita West/T.G.Sportstv1

LMU Falls Short of Upset against UConn 68-65

LOS ANGELES -- The noise in Gersten Pavilion reached a deafening level as the sequence of play had drawn the crowd to this moment. Thirsty for a victory over a national powerhouse, they watch as the spinning ball, freshly released from point guard Brandon Brown's finger tips, clank off the right side of the rim. With that, the energy was sapped from the building as the Loyola Marymount University Lions (1-2) fell short of victory to the University of Connecticut Huskies (1-2) 68-65 Thursday night.
This was the first all-time meeting between the two schools. It was also the first time a nationally-ranked or powerhouse school was scheduled to play in Hank's House since 2012. UConn was a preseason top 20 team by the major polls but opened the season with two losses at home to small schools similar to LMU. The Lions were looking to give the Huskies their third loss.
Gersten Pavilion was full of energy throughout the evening as the fans were treated to a hard-fought contest by both sides. After the game, UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie acknowledged that it was a relief to come out on the winning side of a grind-it-out game.
"This is what it's all about," said Ollie. "Nobody said it was going to be easy. We have a tough team who believes in one another. We want to build character from this."
The scoring began with a two-handed flush by Huskies' Terry Larrier, who led the Huskies with 14 points. It appeared that the visitors were ready to assert themselves and cruise on the night but Lions' guard Steven Haney answered back with a three pointer from the top of the arc. After a UConn free throw, big man Stefan Jovanovic added two buckets for the home team to take an early 7-3 lead. The lead changed back and forth in the first 10 minutes. Overall, the lead changed 16 times with seven ties in this contest.
Midway through the first half, LMU reserve-guard Kelvin Amayo stole the ball the Huskies and followed up with a breakaway tomahawk jam that gave the Lions an 18-15 lead. Amayo finished with a game-high 18 points.
"All of us came in and worked hard," said Amayo. "I just took coach's advice and let things come to me."
However, that lead was short-lived as UConn went on a 17-4 run to open up a 10-point lead. Most of the output was produced by guard Alterique Gilbert who either scored or assisted on all the field goals during that run. Gilbert collided with an LMU player while chasing a loose ball around the 3-minute mark, it resulted in a dislocated shoulder and he wouldn't return for the rest of the game.
The Lions took advantage of the Huskies without its spark plug and ended the half on the 12-2 run to tie the game at 34-34. The second half opened up with an 8-2 LMU run. They did it the same way the first ended, by applying pressure defense and forcing turnovers. The Lions would be in the driver's seat for majority of the way until eight minutes were left in the game, where it was tied at 54.
"We had too many turnovers on their pressure," Ollie said. "They got into passing lanes and got disruptive."
The team exchanged pairs of makes after the 8-minute timeout. UConn's point guard Jalen Adams scored a layup, LMU answered with a three from Haney, then a UConn layup by Larrier, a Amayo free throw was mixed in then his teammate Buay Tuach scored what would be LMU's final field goal of the game. The Huskies prevented the Lions from making a shot in the final 3:50 of the game; they only added two free throws later.
LMU had plenty of chances to win the game at the end but UConn buckled down and made stops when they needed to and made it difficult for the home team to execute any plays down the stretch. Down by three with under 10 seconds, Haney had the ball on the left sideline but was trapped by the Huskies and turned the ball over. Even then, the Lions were still given a final reprieve as Adams missed the front end free throw of a one and one.
The Lions pushed the ball down the right side of the court and found Brown with a wide-open look. Maybe had he known that he still had time to take aim, the outcome could have been different. What we do know is the Lions should grit and battled a team, who is perennial national-title contender, to the end. That should give them hope as they enter West Coast Conference play. The Lions next game is November 25 as they host Portland State.