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.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Long Beach State Defeats Cal State Los Angeles in Season Opener

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The Long Beach State 49ers raced past the California State University, Los Angeles Golden Eagles for a 95-59 victory in their season opener Friday night in Long Beach. The 49ers are the favorites to win the Big West Conference and their display against the Eagles confirms the preseason selection.

Leading the way for The Beach was point guard Justin Bibbins, who filled the score sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and four steals. Bibbins was a Second Team All-Conference selection a season ago.

"Justin is an elite player in this league," said Coach Dan Monson. "He can play with anybody in this country. We're going to give him an opportunity to go prove it."

Over the past seven seasons, Long Beach State has ranked no lower than sixth in the nation in non-conference strength of schedule, according to Ken Pomeroy's ratings. The 49ers will immediately go on the road to play four teams who played in the NCAA tournament last year; they have Wichita State, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 14 Louisville, and No. 20 UCLA.

"We needed some confidence to buy into what works," said Monson. "Now we're going to get tested. They need to know what it's like to be at that level. That's the level we want to be, at the end of the season. No matter what happens, we're going to come back a better basketball team at the end of this week and that's why we play this schedule."

Friday night was the first time the two schools played each other since the 1992 season. Cal State L.A. was essentially a tune up for Long Beach State. The up-tempo style employed by Monson's team made it hard for the Eagles to keep up with. The 49ers continued to pound the ball inside and attack the rim; Long Beach State dominated the Points in Paint category 52-18. 

Defensively, the 49ers applied pressure via the full-court press after made free throws and perimeter traps, which forced turnovers and resulted in easy transition points. Long Beach State led 51-38 at halftime and came out of the break turning up the pressure. One two-minute run of play featured Loyola Marymount transfer Evan Payne break away for three dunks to stretch the lead to 64-45 to put the game away. Payne was the game's high scorer with 15 points.

"I think [Payne] showed a level of comfort," said Monson. "He's been so locked-in to try to do what we ask of him defensively, he hasn't been comfortable on offense. Today he got out in the open court. He's as good as any player I have had in the open court."

The contributions from the visitors were minimal, aside from a crowd-pleasing dunk from Desean Scott in the first quarter of the game that provided the crowd in arena with much-needed energy, and ironically fueled a 49er's run to close out the first half.

The 49ers had two other players score in double figures, forwards Yussuf Temidayo and Gabe Levin, with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Overall, Monson utilized 14 players in this game, with 10 of them playing at least 10 minutes. Long Beach State is going to need all hands on deck to come back from this road trip with positive results.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

USC Trojans 45, Oregon Ducks 20

LOS ANGELES -- A day before clocks are to be turned back by an hour in the fall, USC Trojans turned back the clock in the Los Angeles Coliseum and plucked the Oregon Ducks' feathers. The Trojans, behind a strong defensive effort and a running game defeated the Ducks 45-20 on homecoming night. USC's defense set the tone for the game as it thwarted the Oregon attack and forced three consecutive three-and-outs to begin the contest.

That enabled the Trojans to jump out to a 17-0 lead, which was never in danger. The Ducks, known for having an explosive offense, were held under 300 total yards by the Trojans, including only 85 on the ground. Oregon entered the game averaging 248 rushing yards per game.
"That is a really good rushing team," said USC's Head Coach Clay Helton. "One of the things [defensive coordinator] Coach [Clancy] Pendergast does is focus on taking the strength away from the team. The other thing we talked about was getting off the field on third down. We thought that was critical."

Read the rest of the story here

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

D'Angelo is Getting There

I am a Lakers fan but, up until the other day, I was not a fan of D’Angelo Russell. In the 2015 draft, I felt there were more pressing needs than the point guard position; Jordan Clarkson made the all-rookie team as a point guard. And because I always like to think I’m right, the draft pick didn’t sit right with me. I saw this video and liked the enjoyment he showed for the game.

Once the season began, Byron Scott thought it was best to make Russell earn his minutes and I agreed with him. I was probably the only person who did agree with the decision. Today’s athletes have a sense of entitlement, work for it first. Russell sulked, I thought that wasn’t cool. Eventually, Russell got his time to shine and basked in the “I Got Ice in My Vein” game. Lakernation was quick to point out how wrong Scott was to hold him back. Would he have been so cold if his hand wasn’t forced by Scott to work on his game? Hmm.

Spring has arrived and D’Lo mania is on, but then came the snitch incident to kill the vibes later that month. It is funny how we can clown and slander on social media but when it comes to one of our own players, all types of defenses are created, knowing good and damn well if this happened on rival team, we would be in full-attack mode. I come from a place where what he did in this incident is unforgiveable but I guess this is a different era. After being froze out for a game and facing the music, I was happy to see him finish the season strong because being scrutinized and having your character questioned can break a young man but Russell stood up under it.

Over the summer, Russell worked hard on his skills and now there are expectations for a Most-Improved-Player type of season from him. One quarter into the season, the “This is my shit” moment happened, my first thought was that it was to early. The following quote from an ESPN Mag article began making waves: 
Kobe deserved every bit of attention he got in his last year, but there's freedom in Kobe not being around... There's no one leader, no face of the Lakers.
As strange as it may seem, that made me become more accepting of the kid. It showed a willingness to be accountable for his actions. He also knew it would draw more criticism from pundits and he was prepared for it. I'm hoping that Russel continues to make strides and help usher the team back into winning times.