By Fran Blinebury, for NBA.com
Posted Feb 13 2010 1:37AM
DALLAS - (NBA.com exclusive) -- As if their season-long race for the first year honors wasn't already close enough, Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings brought their duel to the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge.
This is, after all, Texas and it was only fitting to have a High Noon type showdown, even if it was on Friday night and even if they were on the same team.
Evans rolled up 26 points, six rebounds and five assists, Jennings scored 22 points with eight assists and six rebounds and together they led the Rookies to a 140-128 win over the Sophomores.
The still-wet-behind-the-ears bunch ended a string of seven straight wins by the Sophomores and was the first time the Rookies came out on top since 2002.
Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City scored 40 points for the Sophomores. His 40-point game came a year after Kevin Durant, this year an assistant coach for the rookies, became the first in the game to break the 40-point mark with a record 46.
When it was over, fans sitting near mid-court at the American Airlines Center stood and chanted "MVP! MVP! MVP!" at San Antonio Spurs rookie DeJuan Blair, who played like a human bowling ball and rumbled his way to 22 points and 23 rebounds.
But it was Evans, Sacramento Kings' top draft pick, who officially won the MVP trophy and graciously offered to share it with Blair.
"I mean, he set the tone for us," said Evans. "He started getting the rebounds for us before the game started. He said to everyone to just get out of the way, because he was going to get every rebound and that's what he did, so that's why I wanted to share it with him."
However, for most of the night, it was Evans and Jennings, the pair of nonpareil point guards who set the pace and the tone for the Rookies offense with a game-within-the-game of can-you-top-this in a close-up continuation of their season-long battle for Rookie of the Year honors.
Milwaukee's Jennings, of course, got all of the early headlines when he dropped in 55 points in a game against the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 14. But since the first month of the season, Evans has come on strong to make his case, leading all rookies in scoring with 20.9 points per game.
The splinter-thin Jennings, who said before the game that he was going to try to break the assist record, drilled the first shot he took -- a 22-footer from the left side -- and wound up instead with the most field goals (11-for-23).
Evans spent most of his night getting position down low and scoring with an assortment of pretzel twist drives, slithering through traffic on one side of the hoop and flipping in improbable shots while coming out on the other side. He shot 11-for-15 and was often too strong for everyone -- even the big men -- down low.
"He probably has it (rookie of the year) and that's fine," Jennings said. "He's putting up big numbers for his team and right now I'm just focusing on making the playoffs. I have a chance to lead my team to the playoffs as a rookie point guard and that's something big right there. Derrick Rose did it last year."
Jennings said helping get the Bucks into the playoffs should help his case.
"Yeah, I think so," he said. "Even though we are in the East, it's still the NBA and you still have to go out there and compete every day."
Evans' Kings are struggling at 18-34 near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
"I don't know," Evans said. "Brandon is actually playing pretty good. We just wanted to go out there and get the win. But we talked about the Rookie of the Year race between me and him and we just said we're both playing good and whoever gets it, gets it. We'll congratulate each other and go from there."
2010 Competitors: Complete roster | Analysis| Morrow in for Rose | Bosh, Durant on coaching staffs
What: T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam
When: Friday, Feb. 12, 9 p.m. ET
Where: American Airlines Center
|Rookie Team roster|
|Head Coach - TBD|
Assistant Coach TBD
|Sophomore Team roster|
|Head Coach TBD|
Assistant Coach TBD
Nine first year players (Rookies) and nine second year players (Sophomores) will be selected to participate.
Coaches for the Rookie Challenge teams will be chosen from the assistant coaches of the All-Star teams.
• Two twenty minute halves will be played.
• Each team will have one full timeout per half. However, two mandatory team timeouts for TV will be called each half (under the 10:00 and 5:00 marks). Teams will lose their full timeout if they do not call it before the 10:00 and 5:00 marks (under 10 charged to Rookies, under 5 charged to Sophomores).
• There will also be one mandatory TV timeout (charged to officials) at the under 15:00 mark in each half.
• Each team will also have one :20 second timeout per half.
• Individual fouls will be kept, but a player will not foul out.
• The penalty will apply after ten team fouls or after the second foul in the final two minutes of each half.
• The clock will stop after each successful field goal in the last minute of each half.
• In the event of a tie game at the end of regulation, a 2-minute overtime period will be played.
• The Sophomores will be considered the "home" team.
• An MVP award will be given out at the conclusion of the game.
2009: Durant keeps Sophomore streak alive
Kevin Durant scored a Rookie Challenge record 46 points on 17-for-25 shooting and was named MVP as he almost single-handedly sent the Sophomores to a 122-116 win at the U.S. Airways Center.
|Previous T-Mobile Rookie Challenge Results|
"I play with the guy, I see him do it every night," said Jeff Green. "He's a tremendous player."
He scored easily on everything from drives, to dunks, to catch-and-shoots off of curl screens to an array of three-pointers from every angle beyond the arc.
Even though Durant wore flashy neon orange sneakers during the game, he was nothing but humble afterward saying how much it meant to him to set the record with his parents and grandmother in the stands.
"I had a blast," Durant said. "I'm just happy I'm here and I'm glad I won MVP ... to have Jeff [Green] and Russell [Westbrook] there to watch me hoist the trophy felt great. It shines a lot of light on the organization."
2008: Gibson's triples lifts Sophomores
Sophomore sharpshooter Daniel Gibson gave the Rookies 11 good reasons why experience pays off. The Cavs' combo guard nailed a record 11 3-pointers in his 20 attempts and scored 33 points as the Sophomores beat the Rookies 136-109 in the 2008 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam at New Orleans Arena. The Sophmores' victory was their sixth straight over the Rookies.
2007: Lee perfect in Sophomore win
David Lee hit all 14 of his field-goal attempts for a game-high 30 points as the Sophomore beat the Rookies for the fifth consecutive year, 155-114. Lee, who added 11 rebounds and four assists, took home MVP of the 2007 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam. Chris Paul notched rookie-game records of 17 assists and nine steals to go with 16 points. Rudy Gay and Paul Millsap paced the Rookie squad with 22 points apiece.
2006: Iguodala emerges as Sophs roll
Philadelphia's Andre Iguodala notched 24 of his game-high 30 points in the second half as the Sophomores topped the Rookies 106-96 in the 2006 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge in Houston. Iguodala, the game's Most Valuable Player, made 13-of-17 from the field and added six rebounds, four steals and three assists.
2005: Carmelo carries Sophomores
On his way to MVP honors, hometown favorite Carmelo Anthony scored 19 of his game-high 31 points in the second half to power the Sophomores to a 133-106 win over the Rookies.
Anderson Varejao fights for the rebound and comes down awkwardly on his left leg and would sustain a leg injury.
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