Big West Notebook
SLO . . . but in a good way
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s basketball team is living the university’s guiding philosophy of ‘learn by doing’. What the Mustangs have been doing is nothing short of learning to win. At 2-1 in conference, 8-3 overall, this team is by far the biggest surprise in the Big West and making noise at the top. They’re currently tied for third in the conference behind Santa Barbara and UC Irvine. They’re accomplishing this behind a quick, effective 3-forward front line of senior Brandon Beeson, senior David Henry and sophomore and team leading scorer Varney Dennis (16.5 points per game).
Although most of their wins have been against weak opponents, their latest win over Utah State at home January 3rd was impressive enough to keep them on Cinderella watch the remainder of the season. They have a confidence building game against Idaho at home on January 5th, and then we’ll see their real mettle against Pacific on Thursday January 10th on the road.
Taking the Highlander Road
Another surprise team in the Big West must be the UC Riverside team coached by 22-year coach John Masi. They are 2-1 in conference, and only 5-6 overall, but no one was expecting such a start, and the aggressive play from this first year Division I team. They are currently on a 3-game win streak, with victories over red hot Cal Poly (see above), and perennial challenger Long Beach State.
The one common factor in their streak is the unexpected big play from junior forward John Galbreath, who has averaged 19 points per contest during the three games. If he continues his hot shooting, and the Highlanders get the consistent play from the league’s leading rebounder sophomore Vili Morton (9.3 rebounds per game), UCR may continue to challenge the league leaders until the end of the season. Next big game: UC Irvine on January 5th. I’ll see you there!
Milestone in the Making
Everyone who knows the Big West and UC Irvine hoops know that Jerry Green tried out for the NBA, but decided to stay in college for his senior year. Besides the many defenses he’ll face this year, the biggest casualty of his decision is the all time scoring record at UCI. He’s at 1622 points as of December 31st 2001, and will need 157 more to take the number one spot held by the UC Riverside assistant coach Tod Murphy.
At his current league-leading scoring average of 22.9 points per game, he should break this record, unfortunately for you Anteater fans, on the road, January 26th, against Cal Poly. If he does better than average, then the record will belong to him January 24th, on the road, against Santa Barbara. Either way, it’s a trip up the 405, then the 101 freeway. Way to go Jerry, and props to his team UCI for winning the Oneida Classic in Green Bay, Wisconsin on New Year’s Eve. Yeah, you guessed it: Jerry was the MVP.