Water polo looks for NCAA tournament berth

first_imgFreshman goalie Nic Porter makes a save against UCLA. He earned MPSF Newcomer of the Week with nine saves. (Josh Dunst | Daily Trojan)After last Saturday’s win against UCLA, the men’s water polo team will begin its postseason this weekend in home waters for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament. Tournament play begins Friday at 9 a.m. and will conclude with the championship match at 1 p.m. Sunday.The Trojans are looking for an NCAA berth and will enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed behind Stanford. USC has a bye in the first round and will play Cal, Penn State Behrend or Austin College in the semifinals on Saturday, depending on Friday’s results.  A Trojan victory on Saturday would mark USC’s 12th consecutive win for their 20-win season. Last year, the team finished 27-4 overall, winning the 2017 MPSF Tournament and reaching the NCAA final for the 13th straight year. The 2018 Trojans are hoping to continue their winning streak and add a 10th NCAA title to the storied program’s collection of trophies. Just days after the team collected its 11th straight victory, freshman goalie Nic Porter earned the Trojans’ ninth MPSF Newcomer of the Week award of 2018. Porter had nine saves against UCLA, including a vital stop in the final minute to secure the victory. His ninth save secured an 11-11 tie entering the final minute of regulation. Now a four-time award winner, Porter matches freshman driver Hannes Daube’s tally of honors to date. Freshman guard Sam Krutonog also has a win to his name, giving USC nine of the 11 newcomer accolades doled out by the conference this season. The Trojans are currently leading the MPSF both offensively and defensively with 16.34 goals scored per game and just 5.34 goals-against per game. “We always want to improve our efforts at both ends of the pool,” Porter said. “Our offense has been firing lately, but we were disappointed to concede 11 goals against UCLA last time out. There’s been an added emphasis on defense this week and this is due to the attacking threats that Cal’s team poses.”USC beat Cal twice during the regular season, and the teams are expected to face off on Saturday. The team aims to claim its third consecutive MPSF Tournament crown and extend its streak of trips to the NCAA final to 14 in a row. “The team has had success in the MPSF tournament in recent years, so the older players and coaches are familiar with how to be successful in this tournament,” Porter said. “We come into this tournament with a lot of confidence, but determined to play some of our best water polo and qualify for the NCAAs.”last_img read more

Blake Griffin strives to take his game to another level

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Griffin’s game has been evolving over the years. Strengthening of the mind would presumably accelerate that evolution, and he did that by reading book after book during the offseason, thanks in part to a pact with a childhood pal.“I have a buddy who’s in med school right now, one of my best friends growing up,” said Griffin, 26. “And I wouldn’t say a wild kid, but he was like super into basketball, that’s all he did. He didn’t really care a whole lot about school, super smart dude.‘Now, he’s like top of his class in med school and we just kind of had this thing where we always pushed each other to become better people, smarter, always trying to learn stuff, always trying to do stuff. He kind of was the one who sparked it for me. He told me about this book, I read it and the ball kept rolling from there.”Perhaps, or not, Griffin’s mind work has something to do with his start this season. He was averaging a career-high 24.7 points as well as 8.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists — the second-highest of his career — entering Saturday’s game against Orlando at Staples Center.As noteworthy as anything, he was shooting a career-best 43 percent from 16 feet and beyond out to the 3-point line, in a season when he is taking 42.5 percent of his shots from that distance — his highest such career percentage. He’s shooting 53 percent overall. They say variety is the spice of life. Take L.A. Clippers power forward Blake Griffin.He doesn’t want to be a one-trick pony on the basketball court, so he works on everything.He doesn’t want to just watch sports all day when he’s free, so he reads.It’s that strong mind, strong body thing.center_img To say the least, Griffin is owner of a sweet mid-range jumper. The way he sometimes glides into it and gracefully goes up to shoot has been a beautiful thing to watch.“Blake’s incredible,” Golden State Warriors interim coach Luke Walton said recently. “He’s another player that is an All-Star that has taken his game to another level. His jump shot looks better than it ever has because I know he’s put in a ton of work.“But now that he has those skills to go with his athleticism and his strength … he’s having a heck of a year so far.”Players who are 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds aren’t supposed to shoot as gracefully as Griffin. They’re not supposed to be able to facilitate the way he does, either. His vision and passing skills are superb.Clippers coach Doc Rivers recalls the story how Tony Brown, a former assistant when Rivers coached the Boston Celtics, first told Rivers of Griffin’s passing skills during a telephone conversation after Rivers took the Clippers job in 2013.“He said, ‘Hey, he’s a great passer. He’s not a good passer. And if you can figure out a way of using him, he’ll surprise you with his vision,’” Rivers said. “And he has. His handle has gotten better and all that with his work, but he just has great instincts. He has great feel. There are few bigs that can do that, but he’s one of them.”Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel points out this past postseason and how outstanding Griffin was with the ball in his hands.“What he did in the playoffs last year and in prior years … he’s not just a dump-it-down-into-the-post and score lobs like maybe his first, second year of his career,” Vogel said. “What he’s doing on the perimeter, you know, playing point forward a lot last year when Chris Paul was out, was just sensational.”Paul missed two of 14 playoff games a season ago. In one — a 117-101 win at Houston in Game 1 of the conference semifinals — Griffin had 13 assists.Griffin also totaled 21 assists with Paul on the floor in a pair of first-round games against the Spurs. In 14 playoff games, Griffin averaged 25.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists while averaging a whopping 39.8 minutes.He does it all, and he works on it all.“As far as my workouts, just mixing it up and doing a lot,” Griffin said. “Not just concentrating on shooting, but doing a lot of stuff in the post, doing stuff off the dribble, getting into the lane, ball-handling. Just literally trying to do everything every day, as opposed to, ‘I’m just going to get some shots up today.’”Not surprisingly, because of how hard he does work to improve his game with all the body and soul stuff, Griffin is also his own worst critic. After a rare off-game Wednesday, during which he shot just 6 of 18 from the field and had four turnovers in a loss to Indiana, Griffin put the hammer down hard on himself.He said, in part, “I think you can’t really expect us to win a game when I play that poorly, shoot that badly and have that many turnovers. So it is on me. I have to be better.”He has been.THE GRIFFIN FILEHeight: 6-foot-10Weight: 250Age: 26College: OklahomaDrafted: No. 1 overall in 2009 NBA Draft.2015 stats: 24.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.8 apglast_img read more