Thursday, April 27, 2017

NFL Draft’s Next Dak: Chad Kelly?

Chad Kelly could be steal of the draft
The 2017 NFL Draft is fast approaching and some teams are working overtime while trying to find their franchise quarterback. The Dallas Cowboys found their key to the future in Dak Prescott with its fourth round draft pick in 2016.  Prescott was highly rated as a National Player of the Year Candidate heading into the 2015 season for Mississippi State and finished the season as a finalist for a plethora of top player awards; he also was named the 2016 Senior Bowl MVP. Leading up to the draft, Prescott had a 2nd-round grade by most scouts but his draft stock slipped when he arrested for DUI weeks before the draft. Due to the off field infraction, many teams passed on him and he became a low-risk choice by the Cowboys and the rest is history.

The NFL Combine showcases many of the top quarterbacks hoping to be selected in the first round or to have instant success like Prescott but one quarterback who wasn't a participant was University of Mississippi's Chad Kelly, mainly because the NFL decided to take a hard stance on players who have gotten into off field trouble. He likely would have still missed showing off in front of scouts because he tore his ACL in an early November game. Kelly was cleared by doctors and was scheduled for abbreviated action during the Ole Miss Pro Day, however, he aggravated a wrist injury and had to cut his workout short. He'll get one more chance to show his abilities to scouts April 22, just five days before the start of the NFL draft.

Kelly, just like Prescott, has great mobility and had much success during his one full season while playing for a school in Mississippi and was on many preseason watch lists for awards but that's where the comparisons should end. Prescott was perceived to be a risk because of character issues but teams didn't due their due diligence and got it wrong. Kelly, on the other hand, has a track record stemming from his high school days to being dismissed from Clemson to getting into a skirmish during an Ole Miss off week while watching his kid brother's high school football game, which was probably the reason the league rescinded its invitation. On the field, Prescott is known for making smart decisions but has limitations when trying to throw downfield. Kelly has no such limitations; he's actually known to have one of the better arms in this draft class.

Due to injury and character concerns, it's likely that Kelly won't be drafted before the sixth round, if at all. But one team that should be considering adding Kelly to the fold is the Kansas City Chiefs because head coach Andy Reid has gotten all that he can out of Alex Smith aka check down Charlie. Smith lacks the ability to push the ball down the field but he's accurate enough to help Kansas City get to another 10-win season, but certainly, they are looking to be more than also-rans. This is the perfect situation for Kelly; he can learn under the quarterback gurus Reid and Brad Childress and watch how Smith prepares. During practices, Reid will salivate at the quarterback with the strongest arm he's had at his disposal since Donovan McNab.

By most accounts, this upcoming draft doesn't have a signal caller who's ready to lead an NFL team out the gate. Maybe because they haven't seen what Kelly can do in a while and have forgotten about him. Don't be surprised when Kelly jumps out on the scene and takes the league by storm in the near future. You heard it here first. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Exclusive One on One with Thon Maker

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Just two years ago, I spoke with an 18-year-old Thon Maker for a feature story, as he was prepping for the Ball Is Life High School All-American game. He was later voted the MVP of that game, and lived up to the hype that preceded that day. Maker was the 10th player selected in the 2016 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

I caught up with Maker to find out how his rookie season was going for him. This discussion took place on March 15 in Los Angeles, shortly after his Bucks defeated the Clippers 97-96. Maker got the start in that game but only played seven minutes, however he did make a key three pointer in the second half that swung momentum in his team’s favor.

On his NBA experience:
Right now, I’m in the flow because I’ve been playing a lot more, so it’s been good. I first started out developing and seeing how everything was going and now I’m in the action. So I just have to go out there and perform.

What he’s working on to finish his season strong:
I need to continue working on my body. I want to come back stronger for next season. There are a lot of games being played right now, so that will have to wait. On the defensive side of the floor, I need to work on being more vocal and finding ways to help us win.

On what his life has been like since joining the NBA compared to before:
It has been good… very, very satisfying. I’ve worked really hard for it and I will continue to work hard every single time. I feel like the results, so far, are where I wanted them to be. To jump from where I was to get to the league, I did whatever it took to get here and I’m going to do whatever it takes to stay here. That is always my mentality.

Adjustments made to his playing style:
Right now, I’m playing more of the five so I’m dedicating time to my footwork, the quickness to fight around other teams’ centers because they are much bigger, so for me that’s important. I’ve been able to learn how to talk loud and talk more often than I did.

Best experience of this season:
I would honestly say it’s the preparation for each game, each night… and just knowing that being in the NBA, the preparation part is pretty big and working at it is very exciting. We used to just watch the games back home but to, now, be a part of it and experience it is a wonderful feeling.

NBA city with best food:
We go to a lot of restaurants. Hmm (ponders response). Who has good food? Can’t remember the name of the restaurant but Detroit and New York. We go out as a team whenever we travel for road games.

Expectations for rest of season:
As a team, we want to continue playing the way we are playing right now and I don’t expect nothing less than this. So for us, we’re on a good pace for the playoffs and just have to focus on one game at a time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Clippers Rout Kings, Get Home Court in Round One

LOS ANGELES — With home court advantage for the first round matchup against the Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs hanging in the balance, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings 115-95 in front of a raucous Staples Center crowd in its final regular season game.

“I wanted to win the game,” said Doc Rivers. “I thought it was good for our guys to win, but honestly home court is still more important and we got that, so that’s nice to get for us.  That’s a bonus.”

DeAndre Jordan led the Clippers with 18 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocked shots.  Chris Paul scored 17 points with nine assists. J.J. Redick contributed 18 points, including three from downtown, breaking his own Clippers’ single season three-point record with his 201st make from behind the arc this season.

Chris Paul’s midrange jumper halfway through the first period gave the Clippers a 17-15 lead, which they would never relinquish. Los Angeles led Utah 30-23 after the first quarter.

“We played all of these games to get to this position,” said Paul. “We had our ups and downs [this season], but all that’s over now, and it all means nothing anymore.”

Most people would have expected the Clippers to pull away from the Kings early in this game considering what was on the line but there they were, only leading the Kings 41-39 with 5:58 remaining in the second quarter.  The lead grew to as large as 10 points after that but Sacramento kept fighting and only trailed by six with a 53-47 halftime score.

The Kings made the first basket of the third quarter, and it appeared the Clippers wouldn’t be handed the fourth seed in the West. The game was played within a six-point margin for the first portion of the third. However, the fight turned into a sparring match for the Clippers, as the Kings started to run out of gas, which was signified by Kings’ guard Ben McLemore missing a breakaway dunk. The lead would be stretched to 14 by the end of the third.

 The Clippers finish the season strong by winning their seventh consecutive game, which is the longest active streak in the NBA.

The focus now turns to preparing for the playoff matchup with Jazz, which begins Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center.

“We have to clean up our mistakes,” said Griffin. “This is what we played 82 games for.”

Friday, March 31, 2017

Finally! Four in Phoenix

The Final Four will be played this weekend in Phoenix and there are some interesting matchups that nobody thought we would be presented with. We've come down to the Blue Blood versus the field, vying for the NCAA Men's College Basketball Championship.

Raise your hand if you had the South Carolina Gamecocks reaching the Final Four in your bracket. How about the Oregon Ducks? Maybe you had the Gonzaga Bulldogs but they were the unlikeliest of the top seeds chosen to reach this far. By far, the most popular of the national semifinal participants are the North Carolina Tar Heels -- the only blue blood college basketball program playing this weekend. To the common eye, this is the Tar Heel invitational, but don't be surprised  if these other teams make you put some respek on their name by the time it's all over.

Another way to look at field of teams is as a geographical battle because each matchup pits a school from the Pacific Northwest against a school from the Carolinas. In the first game, its Gonzaga versus South Carolina; there's good reason to cheer for both of these teams. The second game features Oregon and North Carolina.

Gonzaga is a small school that plays in a small conference, which they have dominated for the last quarter of a century. The Zags, as they're commonly referred to by, have been to 20 straight NCAA tourneys and regularly advance to the sweet 16 but that's about it. This season they were the last remaining undefeated team and held down the number one spot in the polls for a few weeks and are playing in the program's first-ever Final Four, so this might finally be their breakthrough.

This is also South Carolina's first trip to the Final Four. Although they play in a power conference, they're not known for basketball but maybe that will change since Frank Martin is the head coach. Martin is probably the top feel good story of this thing. By now you've heard about Martin's story, if not you best read up, then come back to this article. You see... nobody really cares about this team except for alumni and people with close ties to the players and staff but everybody wants to see a guy like Frank win.

Before making the Final Four, Oregon held the distinction as the team that had gone the longest time between Final Four appearances -- 78 years. They're the team that most of the haters will be rooting for since there are people who simply don't want the Tar Heels to prosper. As I just mentioned how Martin is beloved, there are folks who are calling for Dana Altman's head because of a scandal from three years ago. That situation withstanding, the Ducks are on the rise and they shouldn't be slept on.
North Carolina lost on a buzzer beater in last year's National Championship game to Villanova. Most of this year's players were on that roster and feel like they have some unfinished business -- they do. So as just reaching this point is a major accomplishment for the other teams, not cutting down the nets on Monday night will be a major disappointment for the Tar Heels. Let's leave it at that.

If you just go by what most people expect then the two number one seeds, Gonzaga and North Carolina, will play each other in the championship game on Monday. However, South Carolina is peaking at the right moment and these are the type of games where the Zags have faltered in past years and if Oregon can knock off the number one overall seed in Kansas, they can do the same to North Carolina, then we'll have a matchup versus the perceived-scumbag coach versus the loveable one. I don't see that scenario happening and, personally, want to see both west coast teams win because I've covered their games in person this year and it will make most of the country mad; CBS would have some poor ratings.

Gonzaga won't lose Saturday and North Carolina shouldn't lose, although it is a very winnable game for Oregon. I hate calling matchups before it's a certainty but will predict that Gonzaga will defeat North Carolina on Monday night.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Clippers Cruise Over Resting Cavs

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers were gift-wrapped a 108-78 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night. Shortly before the start of the game, the Cavaliers announced their star players would not be playing in this game due to rest.

Blake Griffin led the way for the Clippers with a game-high 23 points and seven boards. DeAndre Jordan scored 13 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. J.J. Reddick chipped in 16 points.

“It’s a different game without Lebron, Kyrie, and Kevin playing, obviously,” said Griffin. “We’re not going to pretend like it’s not. But at the end of the day, you still have to go out and execute.”

It took the Clippers a quarter and a half to finally separate themselves from the short-handed Cavaliers and ease the stress of the home crowd. As they took control of the game by scoring 13 unanswered points, Cav’s coach Tyronn Lue resorted to intentionally fouling Jordan for on possession; Jordan split the pair of free throws and Lue didn’t go back to the well. That was the turning point of the game, as Cleveland didn’t have enough its arsenal to challenge the Clippers on the scoreboard.

“Guys started making shots,” said Chris Paul, who didn’t make a field goal in the game for the seventh time in his career. “I still didn’t, but I think our defense got a little better, we started getting out in transition defense.”

Griffin put an exclamation on the Clippers’ second quarter dominance with two seconds left in the first half when he caught the Cavs sleeping and came unimpeded down the lane to rebound a DeAndre Jordan missed free throw with an emphatic put-back dunk. The Clippers led 47-31 at the half and never looked back.

“The ball just kind of took several bounces, a couple of more bounces than any of us thought and I just happened to be there… I just got lucky,” said Griffin. “Our trust was high tonight, that is what I like the most.”

Even with Cleveland’s big three sitting out this game for rest, the Clippers’ recent defensive woes surfaced when Iman Shumpert sank an open 19-foot jumper then drove for an uncontested layup for the games first two baskets. 

However, the home team quickly got their affairs in order as they forced and took advantage of seven empty possessions to go on a 12-0 run.  The Cavs responded with a 14-2 run of their own, holding the Clippers scoreless for the final 3:28 of the period, to lead 16-14 after the first quarter.

The Clippers entered the game as losers of three straight and in sixth place in the Western Conference standings. Oklahoma City tied them with the same record but was in fifth place due to a tiebreaker. It was a much-needed win for Los Angeles, who play three beatable opponents in the Knicks, Lakers, and the Mavericks next on the schedule before playing the fourth-place Utah Jazz next Saturday, March 25.

Chris Paul didn’t make a field goal on eight attempts.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Clippers Inches Short Against Bucks

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LOS ANGELES — It was a game of inches as Blake Griffin’s shot bounced off the rim and fell short at the buzzer and the Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 97-96 Wednesday at the STAPLES Center.

The Clippers (40-28) began the day two and a half games behind the Utah Jazz in the battle for the fourth seed in the Western Conference. However, Wednesday’s loss to Milwaukee puts them much closer to the Memphis Grizzlies, who trail the Clippers by two games in seventh place.

The Clippers looked lethargic in the fourth quarter, showing no real fire on the court until the closing minutes.

“We couldn’t get the string of stops you need to be a great team,” said a disappointed Doc Rivers. “Either we didn’t rotate, or they made a good shot, or we fouled, we just couldn’t get multiple stops. We got a couple of good stops that cut the lead but I just thought we failed to get the big stops tonight.”

From Milwaukee’s perspective, they got the stop they needed at the right time.

“We anticipated the switch because they had been switching the whole game,” said Rivers. “We got [Griffin] the ball right in the middle of the floor with a point guard on him. Matthew Dellavedova got into his legs and the next guy challenged his shot.”

Dellavedova, who came off the bench, played a key role on the offensive end as well in the deciding fourth quarter. Dellavedova scored eight points in the closing quarter, including two big threes that threw cooled off Clipper rallies.

“I think [Dellavedova] is setting good screens, so when I see Chris Paul in front of me, I know Delly is wide open,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo. “I think he did a great job of separating, and he was able to get his feet set and knock them down.”

Dellavedova, who scored 12 points, was one of three Bucks reserve bench players that scored in double figures.  If you compare the plus/minus in the box scores, there is a huge difference between the two squads in this game.

Clippers need to find a way to be productive when their starters aren’t on the floor. Aside from the 14 points Jamal Crawford scored, the bench wasn’t effective at all. The reserve players gave back the good equity the starters built every time the unit was on the court.

Milwaukee, on the other hand, benefit from a balanced scoring attack. They featured eight players with 20 or more minutes of playing time and had six players who scored in double figures.

“When we’re unselfish and we make the extra pass, good things happen,” said Jason Kidd after the game. “We didn’t put a lot of minutes on Khris [Middleton] tonight, which is a bonus… Again, everybody who pitched in, who played, it was a big team win on the road.”

Antetokounmpo had 16 points, five rebounds and five assists in only 28 minutes. Bucks rookie point guard Malcom Brogdon is making a run at Rookie of the Year; he scored 11 points and dished out five assists.

Milwaukee (33-34) began the day with slim half game lead over Miami for the eight and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the win puts them in the seventh spot as they try to avoid a first round matchup against Cleveland.

After the game Clippers coach Doc Rivers announced that Deandre Jordan and Griffin would not be traveling with the team to Denver to play in Thursday night’s game.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

UC Davis Wins Big West Championship

Courtesy of Marlin Agoub
Anaheim, Calif. – If you needed proof that defense actually does win championships, look no further than the Honda Center on Saturday night where the UC Davis Aggies put clamps on the UC Irvine Anteaters. With a 50-47 victory, UC Davis wins its first Big West Tournament championship and earned its first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

“Before the tournament started we told the guys that the best defensive will walk away with the biggest prize and go dancing,” said UC Davis coach Jim Les. “These guys, for these three games, were dominant.”

Brynton Lemar scored 11 points in the final four minutes to lead UC Davis to victory.  In the closing moments with a 46-44 lead, Lemar was face-to-face with UC Irvine’s Luke Nelson milking the shot clock and having a conversation before he drove the lane and scored two points on a goal tending.

“I literally told him, ‘you know I worked too hard for this. I’m not going to let this slip out,’” Lemar explained. “He said, “Alright, let’s see it.’ So I took it as a challenge. I love challenges and I’m not going to back down from nobody… It was a great experience.”

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Lemar scored a game-high 20 points. Chima Moneke, who’s put back at the buzzer of the Aggies’ semifinal game earned them a championship opportunity, was selected as the Big West Tournament MVP.

“This was the toughest last four minutes I ever played,” said a delighted Moneke. “I’m just happy we won.”

J.T. Andrele scored the first points of the game for UC Davis to put them ahead on the scoreboard. It was a lead that they never gave up for the first 30 minutes, mainly because they made life hard on offense for UC Irvine.

The Aggies kept the Anteater starting backcourt of Nelson and Jaron Martin in check throughout the first half by holding them to a combined 2-8 from the field. Martin would finish with only three points total.

UC Irvine committed as many turnovers as they had field goal attempts in the first 10 minutes – nine. UC Irvine, with two minutes left in the first half, had as many points as turnovers – 11; Irvine committed 13 turnovers overall in the first half.

“They were physical, they were aggressive, the way championship basketball is often played,” said UC Irvine head coach Russell Turner. “

When they weren’t turning the ball over, the shots weren’t falling. UC Irvine shot 6-23 in the first half. UC Davis led UC Irvine 24-16 at the half. It was the lowest scoring output in any half by UC Irvine all season.

Irvine scored the first five points of the second half, sending a reminder as to why they’re the top-seeded team in the conference.  They took their first lead of the game on a Tommy Rutherford dunk, midway through the second half.

There was a lot of nervous energy in the building in closing minutes but it was apparent that nervous isn’t a word used to describe Lemar. When the Aggies started to tighten up, he was a cool as a fan, continuously driving for layups and making free throws. In the semifinal, Lemar scored nine points in the overtime period. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Moneke's Heroics Send UC Davis to First Championship Game

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter T.G.Sportstv1
Anaheim, Calif. – A put-back at the buzzer by Chima Moneke sends the UC Davis Aggies to the championship game with 66-64 victory over the Cal State Fullerton Titans in overtime.

Brynton Lemar carried the Aggies on his back during the overtime period when he scored all nine of the Aggies’ points prior to Moneke’s late-game heroics. Lemar scored a game-high 23 points.

“As a senior, I think it’s my responsibility to step up and make plays,” said Lemar. “I saw the defense sag off a little bit and they weren’t really hedging on screens. They were playing all guards. I was just trying to be aggressive and make good plays.”

Moneke finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. His physicality overwhelmed the Titans for most of the game as he continued get in the paint for his points and grabbed seven offensive rebounds, none was more important than his final one.

“I saw that [Fullerton player] just watching the shot, so I just snuck in and knew I was going to get the offensive rebound,” said Moneke. “I just tried to stay cool. I knew there was enough time for me to get it up.”

The nightcap began as a sloppily-played basketball game, although UC Davis closed out the first half strong by making eight of its last 12 shots after opening the game by making only two of its first 15 field goal attempts. Fullerton scored the first seven points of the game but went cold, scoring only 11 the rest of the half. Fullerton shot 7-31 in the first half and going scoreless in the last three minutes of the first half.

The second half was played with much more intensity than the first. Both teams were more efficient in shooting the ball, especially the Titans’ Tre’ Coogins, who took it upon himself to shoulder the load to make a ball game out of it.

UC Davis was in charge for most of the second half. It was Moneke and Lemar tag teaming with an inside to outside game for the Aggies. Moneke shot 16 free throws; putting the Cal State Fullerton bigs in foul trouble in the process, which forced them to go small for the majority of the second half.

“We got to a point where we had to play five guards, the way the whistle was going,” said Cal State Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor. “The physically beat us up and I thought they were allowed to do that tonight throughout the course of the game from the onset.”

Small ball seemed to have worked in Fullerton’s when Coogins shot from deep to give Titans a 53-51 lead that they couldn’t keep because found his way to the foul line for a pair of free throws to tie the game at 53. A pair of free throws by Coogins gave the Titans another lead but Lemar drove to a short post for a jumper with 20 seconds left that put the game into overtime.

The win sends UC Davis to its first trip to the Big West championship game since they entered the league in the 2007-08 season. They will face UC Irvine who defeated Long Beach State in the first semifinal game.

UC Irvine Throws Block Party in Semifinal Win

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter T.G.Sportstv1
Anaheim, Calif. – Defense wins championships, and thanks to the block party that Jonathan Galloway and UC Irvine Anteaters threw in the semifinals of the Big West tournament, they will get an opportunity to play for one as they defeated the Long Beach State 49ers 62-57 on Friday night.
The Anteaters blocked a season-high 10 shots, which is the second most in Big West Tournament history. Galloway blocked five shots, including a block on a Noah Blackwell drive that stymied a 49er comeback.

“My job, one of them, is to protect the rim,” said Galloway, who scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds. “As long as my team is doing their job, that allows me to defend and stop the ball.”

 Galloway started off the scoring for UC Irvine with two buckets inside, one on a tip and another on a turnaround jumper. Jaron Martin picked up where he left off from the first round by scoring 10 points in the first half that included two three pointers.  Martin, who scored a game-high 18 points, also played a key role on defense with three steals.

“We defend first before we think about the offensive side,” said Martin. “As long as we defend and rebound, the main thing for us is getting back in transition. That’s the emphasis, I think we did that pretty good today and I’m proud of the win.”

49ers' Justin Bibbins, started by missing his first six shots but made his final two of the first half.  Bibbins shot four of 15 in the game. As a whole, Long Beach State only made 32 percent of their attempts.

“That was the whole focus of our defensive game plan in shoot-around today,” said UC Irvine coach Russell Turner. “Defend his (Bibbins) pick-and-roll. He’s crafty… He’s going to be one of the guys favored to be Player of the Year next year.

The 49ers shooting struggles could very well be attested to the defensive play of the Anteaters, who were contesting every 49ers shot not giving a clean look.  UC Irvine led 31-25 at halftime.

Martin made UCI’s first two baskets of the second half and Long Beach State’s deficit, once again, grew to nine points with 17 minutes left in the game, and that’s about the time they started to claw its way back into the contest. They used an 8-0 run to take their first lead since the opening minutes of the game at 46-42.

The Anteaters immediately responded with a seven-point run of their own when Luke Nelson stopped the bleeding with a three pointer followed by a mid-range jumper, he then got out in transition and assisted on a Martin layup.  That was the last lead change as the top-seeded Anteaters continued to come up with stops to close the game.

“They defended us well tonight and we battled, but they were better than us,” said Monson. “In the postseason, any three-minute segment can end your season. That one didn’t end our season because we had opportunities after that, but it changed the momentum of the game.”

In what appeared to be a physical first half, there were only 10 total fouls called. The 49ers only made one trip to the line, which was by Bibbins, who sank the pair; Bibbins later made two more and extended his consecutive made free throw streak to 23. Temidayo Yussuf scored 10 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for the 49ers.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Bibbins Scores 27 to Lead 49ers into Semis

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter T.G. Sportstv1
Anaheim, Calif. -- With a big night from Long Beach State 49ers’ point guard Justin Bibbins, they advance to the semifinals of the Big West tournament with a 73-62 win over the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. The junior guard took it upon himself to end the season for the Rainbow Warriors with his spectacular play.

“The bigs set great screens on the pick and rolls and got me open for jumpers.” said Bibbins. “I didn’t have to hunt for it, it just came to me within the offense. That’s what is great about this team… It doesn’t matter who is scoring, whoever has the hot hand, that’s who we’re going to. Tonight was just my night.”

First, it was Bibbins weaving through the defense and draining a mid-range jumper then he bounced a no look pass that found Roschon Prince in traffic, which he powered in for a bucket. That was just the start of a 19-2 run during a seven minutes and 18 seconds frame, in which they held Hawaii without a single field goal.

In contrast, Hawaii opened the game by scoring the first five points and look to seize control. For the Rainbow Warriors, it was Gibson Johnson who couldn’t be stopped in the early going, as he set the tone by making his first five baskets. After Johnson cooled off, Noah Allen carried the load for the Rainbow Warriors when he caught fire by scoring 10 consecutive team points in the last four minutes of the first half, including two three pointers. Hawaii held a 35-33 lead at halftime.

Bibbins scored 19 points in the first half on six for seven shooting, including all five of his attempts from the line. He scored nine of the 49ers’ first 13 points, which the 49ers desperately needed him to do because they struggled to put the ball in the basket throughout the first 12 minutes.

“Justin set the tone for us mentally,” said Long Beach State Head Coach Dan Monson. “He came out and was just so impressive offensively. He really carried us until we could get some other guys comfortable in the flow.”

The second half played out just like most of the game did, with the teams continuing to trade baskets. Only this time around, it was Long Beach who used a 15-6 run to take a lead they wouldn’t give up.

Hawaii 6-0 run to tie the game at 54 at 10-minute mark to make things interesting but a Bibbins jumper ended their hopes and it also jumpstarted an 10-0 run that put the 49ers in complete control of the game to easily close it out.

Bibbins was a perfect 9-9 from free throw line in the game en route to his game-high 27 points. He has now made 21 consecutive from the charity stripe.  Barry Ogalue was a perfect 7-7 from the floor in scoring 16 points. Temidayo Yussuf was also perfect from the floor; he made all four of his shots and added nine rebounds.

Long Beach State has advanced to the semifinals in eight of the last nine years.

Senior Guards lead UC Irvine into Big West Semifinal

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter T.G. Sportstv1 
Anaheim, Calif. – The top-seeded UC Irvine Anteaters (20-13) avoided a second half scare to advance to the semifinals with 76-67 defeat of the eight-seeded UC Riverside Highlanders (7-21) on Thursday night.

The backcourt duo of Luke Nelson and Jaron Martin led the way for the Anteaters. Nelson scored 19 points and dished out five assists with five rebounds. Martin also scored 19 points, 15 of them in the second half that were key to putting the Highlanders away.

One of the keys to victory for the Anteaters was the way they dominated on the glass.  Jonathon Galloway had 13 rebounds with five coming on the offensive end, which gave UCI second opportunities.

“We’re the most efficient offensive team in the league this year,” said UC Irvine Head Coach Russell Turner. “Part of our efficiency is the offensive rebounding. So on nights when the shots don’t go in, we can win extra possessions. We made a great effort to do that and I thought that was key for us.”

UCI was in control for almost the entire game; they had a game-high 14-point margin early in second half but the UC Riverside cut the lead to three points on Johnson’s jumper with 9:37 left in the game. That’s when Martin took over and settled things down.

“I just wanted to lead, that’s my duty as a senior,” said Martin. “Getting these guys calmed down and trying to figure out the best way to win. Down the stretch, I knew I needed to score more and I just tried to do what I needed to.”

Irvine held Riverside to eight made baskets on 30 percent shooting as they held a 10-point lead at halftime. Riverside forward Secean Johnson scored 13 points and half of the makes in the half but the rest of the team couldn’t buy a bucket in the first stanza.

Nelson had most of his servings early in the game as he picked his way through the defense and accumulated 14 of his points in the first half, five of them coming from the free throw line.

“They were trying to play me very aggressively, so as a scorer, I have to learn to adjust but keep playing my game,” said Nelson. “This is the game I love and every game I try to play my best.”

Johnson led UC Riverside in scoring with 22 points. Dikymbe Martin chipped in 12 points and Chance Murray added 11 points. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Rainbow Wahine Find Gold as They Advance

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1
The University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine led wire to wire to defeat Cal Poly Pomona Mustangs 71-50 in the night cap of opening round of the Big West Women's Basketball Tournament Tuesday.

"We had pretty good energy coming into the game," said Hawaii coach Laura Beeman. "We had good pace on offense and were able to stop them in transition."

There was often gold at the end of the rainbow jumpers when Olivia Crawford shot the ball from behind the arc for Hawaii. In a first half where both teams struggle to make baskets, Crawford made three of her four three-point attempts.

"Once Liv [Crawford] gets going, it's really good for our team," said Hawaii guard Brianna Harris. "She brought the energy from the jump. Her defense led to our offense. I'm glad what she got today."

Cal Poly shot 9-30 and Hawaii was 10-24 in a non descript first half that saw the Rainbow Wahine lead the Mustangs 28-21 at the break. The Mustang's Hannah Gilbert scored 14 of her team's 21 points.

"I think in the first half [Gilbert] got 14 of their points and another person only had four," said Beeman. "If that's going to be their scoring balance, I'm okay with that."

The second half was much more entertaining as both teams increased the tempo, which played to the advantage of Hawaii because they continued to lean on Crawford, who scored 10 points in the third period.

"Once I hit one, then I hit another one... my teammates were giving me a lot of energy," said Crawford.

Cal Poly were outscored 16-23 in the third period and were only able to stay within reach only because of Gilbert's nine points in the stanza. The game got away from them and they were never able to close the margin.

The Mustangs didn't have their lucky horse shoes tonight as they didn't make a single three pointer in the game.

Hawaii plays CSUN in the second round.

Key stat
Three-point field goals: Hawaii 10-22, Cal Poly 0-11

Top performers
Oliva Crawford, Hawaii - Blazing hot shooting stroke all night as she made five of seven three-point attempts. She made eight of eleven overall en route to her 21 points.

Brianna Harris, Hawaii - Efficiently supplemented Crawford by being making a perfect 3-3 from deep en route to scoring 16 points. She also made xx from the charity stripe

Hannah Gilbert, Cal Poly - Gilbert scored a game-high 26 points and single handedly kept the Mustangs in the game until Hawaii went on a run midway through the third quarter. She was 12-23 from the field.

UC Riverside Pummels UC Irvine in Big West Opening Round

Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1
LONG BEACH, CALIF. -- The number five-seeded UC Riverside Highlanders got off to a slow start but overcame  early jitters to rout the number eight-seeded UC Irvine Anteaters in the opening game of the Big West Women's Basketball tournament Tuesday night.

UC Irvine opened up on 12-2 run with nine of those coming on three three-point baskets by Andee Ritter and the Anteaters were thinking upset. Riverside forced eight turnovers, which led to easy points in transition and helped them settle down and go on a 20-4 blitz to take control of the game and hold  a 22-16 lead after the first quarter.  Riverside defense showed up again at the end of the second period as Irvine didn't make a basket  in the last four minutes. The Highlanders led with a 46-33 score at halftime

In the second half, the Highlanders made things difficult for the Anteaters to score when they held them to only 27 points.  Riverside put away the game with a  23-13 advantage in the third period; the margin was as close as nine points inside the first three minutes of period but the Anteaters were never able to string a solid run together.

Five players scored in double figures for UC Riverside as they advance to play UC Santa Barbara in the second round.

Turning Point
After being down 2-12 to begin the game, UCR scored 14 unanswered points and never looked back.

Key Performers
Simone Decoud, Riverside - Produced a double double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. She did most of the damage when she scored 12 of her points in first half. She made two threes and was 6-7 from the free throw line.
Lauren Holt, Riverside - Had a double double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Holt got buckets any way you can think of, whether it was driving the lane, shooting a mid range, or from behind the arc, Holt did it all, including two blocks on defense.
Michelle Curry, Riverside - Scored 20 points in the game. She continuously forced the issue by attacking the basket with physicality and caused Irvine to drop in the paint, which opened up shooters on outside.
Andee Ritter, Irvine - She made five three-point baskets in the game. After a hot start, she became the focal point of Riverside's defense. She was 7-15 from the field overall.

Post game quotes
UC Riverside Coach John Margaritas on the slow start:
"Before the game we talked about emotions of the tournament. So when that [slow start] happened, we were prepared to continue playing our game, knowing that it's 40 minutes."

Coach Margaritas on Michelle Curry:
"Her ability to stay on the floor after foul trouble played a huge role in the outcome of the game. I thought 'Either we're going to play without her and not have enough points to win or I can keep her in the game and let things go as they go.' I'd rather lose a game because a player fouled not because I thought she was going to foul out."

Lauren Holt on take away from this game:

"Just confidence... It was a great game to have under our belt. Everyone showed up. We were firing on all cylinders. We started off slow but we were able to come back. We got our nerves to calm down and settle in. The biggest thing going in to tomorrow is knowing we got our jitters out of the way and we don't have to play so tight.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Clippers Escape Sting of Hornets in Overtime

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Clippers get their first win after the all-star break with a 124-121 overtime defeat of the Charlotte Hornets on Oscar night in La La Land.

In Hollywood, as the 89th Academy Awards ceremony was taking place and the trophy for best picture was incorrectly given to “La La Land” then swiftly taken away as they began celebrating, the same result almost befit the Clippers a few miles away when they blew a 17-point lead.

“I thought we played a really good offensive first half, a really good offensive third quarter to start,” said Clippers guard J.J. “But they have shot makers on their team, and [Nicholas] Batum and [Kemba] Walker were awesome tonight.”

After the game, Hornets head coach Steve Clifford was visibly upset at a controversial non-foul call with his team in possession, down by one with six seconds left. Trapped on the sideline, Walker appeared to be bumped by Chris Paul and was forced to throw an errant pass as he was falling out of bounds. No whistle was blown on the play and the turnover resulted in Blake Griffin layup to put the Clippers up by three with under four seconds.

“Kemba had the ball at half court and he thought he got fouled,” said Clippers assistant Mike Woodson. “I think he was falling behind the line and he had to get rid of it and we came up with it. It was a big defensive effort coming down the stretch.”

With the Hornets facing a five-point deficit with under a minute remaining in regulation, Walker drained a three then followed up with two free throws to tie with 11.9 seconds on the clock after his team made a defensive stop.

“We just wanted to continue to fight hard, which we did,” said Walker, who led the Hornets with 34 points. “We wanted to make plays and try to make the plays necessary to win the basketball game. Once we got down, we came together and we made a push.”

 The game would go into overtime after Paul missed a jumper at the buzzer.  That’s when Blake Griffin decided enough was enough and scored seven of his game and season-high 43 points.

“Blake and I talked before the game about being aggressive and he could have had more [points],” said Paul. “He could have had 50 points, he is a guy that is capable of that every night, but he is so unselfish, which is why he is the player he is.”

Griffin was on a mission to get buckets any way he could. He dazzled with his usual array of powerful dunks, pull-ups and drives from midrange, and he put on a couple of dribbling exhibitions. Griffin also hit his mark from behind the arc, where he made three of his four attempts.

“He is a monster,” said Clifford. “He’s so skilled and smart and he’s the perfect player.”

CP3 was also impressive for the Clippers in the win as he recorded 17 assists without committing a single turnover. Redick scored 22 for Los Angles and all-star DeAndre Jordan added 20 points plus 19 rebounds.

The Clippers next opponent will be the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

This was Charlotte’s fifth overtime loss of the season. Batum scored 31 points while making eight from downtown. Jeremy Lamb scored 19 off the bench.

The Hornets will play the Lakers on Tuesday night.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ducks get Home Cooking on the Road to Beat Trojans

Jordan Bell looks to drive

William Johnson/T.G.Sportstv1/

LOS ANGELES -- The Oregon Ducks (22-4), with the help of two local players, stymied a comeback from the USC Trojans (21-5) to win 81-70 Saturday night. It was the Ducks' 14th consecutive win over the Trojans.

Looking to rebound after blowing a 19-point lead to UCLA and losing in its previous game, the Oregon Ducks almost wasted another double-digit lead in Los Angeles. Down by 10 with just under six minutes to play, USC cut the deficit to three when Bennie Boatwright sank a pair of free throws following Oregon's All-American candidate Dillon Brooks' fifth foul of the game with just over three minutes remaining.

Los Angles native, Tyler Dorsey, then took over the game for the Ducks by nailing two threes within a two-minute span. The first came as the shot clock ticked to zero after a controversial out of bounds call that kept possession with the visitors. USC's Elijah Stewart, who scored 15 for the Trojans, answered with a deep shot to cut it back to three. Oregon's other Southern California player, Jordan Bell, made a layup then USC called a timeout.

After an empty USC possession, the Ducks found Dorsey in transition, which he pulled up from deep and essentially put the Trojans away.

"When Dillon fouled out, we still had the confidence that we would find a way to win," said Dorsey. "We had a next-man-up mentality."

Both teams started this game off cold from the field. Oregon was 5 for 19 and USC was 3 for 15 with 10:36 left in the 1st half. Then the Ducks proceeded to make seven consecutive shots to give them the largest lead of the game, 26-15, at the 6 minute mark. However, the Trojans closed the half strong and trailed 35-33 at the break.

Both teams decided to push the tempo and run at the outset of the second half. Oregon struck first with a three by Brooks. The tide turned for USC when McLaughlin threw an incredible lob from half court to Stewart, who caught it, stuffed it, and threw the crowd into a frenzy. Back-to-back threes from Stewart and McLaughlin gave the Trojans a lead they would have for a short while.

Bell scored 10 points in the second half for the Ducks, doing what he can to prevent his team's first losing streak of the season as he finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

"It was very important to get a win," said Bell. "We took an 'L' against UCLA so we wanted to bounce back. We didn't want to leave with a two-game road trip loss."

Brooks led the Ducks in scoring with 21 points. Dorsey scored 19, including four makes from downtown. Oregon trails Arizona by one game in the race for the Pac-12 regular season title, they host Utah on Thursday.

Chimezie Metu led the way for the Trojans with 16 points, Boatwright and Stewart both chipped in with 15 each. USC is in the midst of its toughest stretch of the season. They go on the road for the next two games to play UCLA and Arizona, respectively.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Zags Remain Undefeated With Win over LMU

Zags frosh Zach Collins goes up for hoop

Courtesy of Zyaire Porter/T.G.Sportstv1/

LOS ANGELES -- College basketball’s top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-0) defeated the Loyola Marymount Lions (11-13) 90-60 on Thursday night to remain the only undefeated team in division I. The difference was clear on the box score as Gonzaga made 30 more free throws than LMU.

It was the first time ever that the top ranked team in the nation played in Gersten Pavilion. The home crowd filled the gym known as Hank’s House with energy as they were hoping to see an upset.

After two easy buckets inside by Przemek Karnowski opened the game for Gonzaga and they jumped out to a 7-2 lead, the adrenaline filled Lions went on an 8-0 run. A Trevor Manuel layup and back-to-back threes by Brandon Brown and Steven Haney gave LMU a 10-7 lead at the first timeout.

“I think we gave up one three that was a little out of character for us, especially with our attention to detail in the scouting reports,” said Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few. “We talked about that, and just had one turnover that we talked about. Just take care of the ball and settling in.”

As expected, Gonzaga wouldn't be down for long, as they immediately responded with a 9-0 run of their own out of the break to go up 16-10. They never looked back as they continued to attack the basket. That aggressiveness earned the top ranked team 21 free throw attempts in the first half.

“Our turnovers led to a lot of fouls in transition,” said LMU Head coach Mike Dunlap. “Turnovers led to easy baskets. The disparity in free throws was huge as far as what gave them that bump at halftime.”

The Bulldogs ended the first half on a 19-6 run and held a 50-28 lead at halftime. The visitors made 17 free throws and shot 58 percent from the field in the first stanza. Gonzaga’s French freshman Killian Tillie led the scoring at the half with 11 points while Bob Cousy Award Finalist Nigel Williams-Goss had 10 points and nine rebounds.

In the second half, the Bulldogs kept the Lions at bay with the margin never getting lower than 17 points. Gonzaga freshman big man Zach Collins, who finished with 11 points, flashed some nice footwork in the post and altered shots on the defensive end. Native Angelino Jordan Mathews also scored 11 points and was the vocal leader on the floor for the Bulldogs.

“Our Freshman are very good,” said Few. “It's crazy the youthful enthusiasm we draw off our freshman is almost as important as the calmness and steadiness we get from Nigel or Jordan.”

Goss-Williams finished with an efficient 19 points and added 11 rebounds; he shot 5-8 from the field and made nine of 10 from the charity stripe. Johnathan Williams was the second leading scorer for Gonzaga with 13 points, including seven makes from the free throw line.

Gonzaga attempted 44 free throws in the game compared to just eight for Loyola Marymount.

For the Lions, Haney scored 12 points and Brown had 11. After the game coach Dunlap pointed to Petr Herman’s efforts on the defensive end with five blocks as something his team can build on. LMU will look to right the ship versus Portland on Saturday.

Gonzaga will travel north to the Bay Area for a nationally televised prime time matchup against conference-rival Saint Mary’s College (22-2).  The Gaels will be looking to avenge their 23-point loss to the Bulldogs on January 14.

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.