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Big West Notebook

December 27, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big West Conference Notebook

by Marcus Vanderberg

Where you at, Pac 10?

I’m calling out Hoopville Pac-10 writer Scott Allen.

My conference is better than yours.

First, it was Cal Poly, traveling to Haas Pavilion and knocking off California.

UC Santa Barbara followed that up by defeating UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

But the icing on the cake came from the Mustangs once again, who did what Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton nearly did earlier in the season and defeated the University of Southern California.

Quietly, the Big West is making a name for itself as a mid-major conference, moving up to 13th in the Sagarin rankings.

He’s going to ‘Gecha’

He was all the talk on the Matador message boards, yet he hadn’t played a single game for CSUN yet.

Fans were already giving him nicknames and counting down the days until he made his debut.

Etoagwara Onyenegecha lived up to the hype at least for one night, scoring 14 points including a span of eight straight in the second half of the Matadors 79-63 victory over Portland State.

Onyenegecha missed the first six games of the season as he was ruled academically ineligible by Northridge. He was expected to become eligible in time for the Matadors contest against Utah on Friday in Salt Lake City but his paperwork was not done in time.

Head coach Bobby Braswell was in desperate need of another player off the bench as he was forced to give the likes of freshmen Austin Waggener and Andre Foy playing time.

Big West Player of the Week

Kameron Gray (32 points, 12 rebounds vs. USC) – Cal Poly

Minus those six turnovers, you would be looking at the box score line of the year for the Big West.

Big West Player of the Year Watch

Dennis and the Mustangs living up to their promise to win the Big West

1. Varnie Dennis – Cal Poly (16.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks)
2. Pape Sow – Cal State Fullerton (16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 59.5 field goal percentage)
3. Bobby Brown – Cal State Fullerton (15.8 points, 4.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds)
4. Casey Cook – UC Santa Barbara (13.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 100.0 free throw percentage)
5. Chris Davis – Cal State Northridge (14.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 54.2 field goal percentage)

Inside the Big West

Cal Poly Mustangs (4-3)

What made the Mustangs victory even more impressive was their 19-point road loss in their previous game against San Diego State. The key to Cal Poly’s success is its streaky shooting. When their shot is on, the Mustangs are hard to stop. Sophomore point guard Kameron Gray ran circles around the Trojan’s suspect defense, with career highs of 32 points and 12 rebounds. Gray leads the Big West with 2.57 steals per contest.

Cal State Fullerton Titans (4-4)

The Titans added another player for their 2004-05 roster this week when Jamaal Brown from Western Kentucky transferred to Fullerton. Brown played in five games this season, averaging 2.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He will be eligible to play for head coach Bob Burton in January 2005.

The highlight of the Titans week had to be their 83-63 victory over Occidental College. While you might be thinking “It is just Occidental,” the Titans lost to this same program last season at home.

Loyola Marymount will travel to Titan Gym to take part in the Titans last non-conference game before opening Big West action on January 3 against Cal State Northridge.

Cal State Northridge Matadors (3-4)

Junior Ian Boylan, arguably the Matadors best player, is in a bit of a slump. After scoring in double figures in 23 straight games, Boylan hasn’t reached the double digit mark his previous three games. Surprisingly, though, Northridge was able to win easily with the 6-6 forward scoring just two points and attempting only two shots. Boylan still makes his presence known on the court, as he grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists.

The Matadors gave the Utes all they could handle last Friday before tripping 73-57. With 6:12 remaining in the second half, the Matadors trailed only 55-53, but the Utes would take off on a 12-2 run to seal the game.

Long Beach State 49ers (2-5)

Long Beach State won a game!

And this time it was against a Division-I school!

The 49ers did something Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly and UC Riverside was unable to do: defeat Loyola Marymount.

Granted they were at the Pyramid and the Lions were without center Chris Ayer but a victory is a victory for this program which has struggled all season.

Freshman Kevin Houston finally broke out of his slump, scoring 14 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Houston has been criticized mostly for the fact that the 49ers had a chance to get Bobby Brown, who is now blossoming into a star at Cal State Fullerton. But instead, the 49ers went with Houston, who has been a bust so far in seven games.

UC Irvine Anteaters (5-4)

In March when the Anteater faithful are looking back and wondering why their team didn’t win 20 games for the first time in three seasons, they will look back at a loss to Sacramento State as for the possible reason why. The Hornets, once the laughing stalk of the Big Sky, defeated the Anteaters 64-56. As a team, Irvine shot 31 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers. The loss came as a bit of a shocker, as in their prior game, they played a double overtime thriller and held off Pepperdine 85-83 at the Bren Events Center.

Sophomore Jeff Gloger is quietly putting up impressive numbers for a point guard. Not only is he leading his team in rebounding (7.1), he is one of four Anteaters in double figures in scoring (10.1) and leads the team in assists (4.0)

UC Riverside Highlanders (3-4)

After losing four in a row, UC Riverside has used home court to their advantage, winning three in a row including wins over Northern Arizona and St. Mary’s.

Sophomore Nate Carter leads the conference in scoring at 17 points per game along with shooting .538 from the field.

The Highlanders will look to avoid the fate of UCI as they travel to Hornet Gym to face Sacramento State. Like most teams in the Big West, UCR has struggled on the road, as it is 0-4.

UC Santa Barbara (6-3)

They’re baaaaaaack!

Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones are both back for the Gauchos and their presence is being known.

UCSB was just the latest mid-major team to go into Pauley Pavilion and defeat the Bruins, joining the likes of Cal State Northridge, Northern Arizona and San Diego.

Unfortunately their luck ran out three nights later when facing #12 Kansas, losing by 20 points.

Fullove finally shook off the rust from his injury and scored 23 points against Alabama State at the WolfPack Holiday Classic.

The Gauchos will finally be at 100 percent when opening conference play January 3 at Long Beach State.

Idaho Vandals (2-6)

One season after being the “sleeper” of the conference, Idaho is just asleep it when it comes to non-conference play. The Vandals don’t have a Division I victory since November 17 (sorry, Great Falls doesn’t count) and the schedule doesn’t get any easier when conference play begins. How about playing at Utah State, Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara, three teams favored to win the conference.

Pacific Tigers (4-5)

The Tigers are in the latter part of their four game road trip to wrap up their non-conference schedule. On Tuesday night against San Francisco, Pacific played well for 37 minutes until the Dons’ Andre Hazel hit a game winning three pointer for a 73-72 victory.

Following the holidays, UOP heads to the city of Brotherly Love to play St. Joe’s, a team it defeated last season at the Alex G. Spanos Center. Even if the Tigers don’t win, they are almost guaranteed 20 seconds on Sportscenter that evening.

Utah State (6-1)

Quietly, Utah State has improved its record to 6-1 after knocking off rival BYU Tuesday night in Logan. Utah State did everything possible to blow the game as a 26-point second half lead evaporated. Spencer Nelson continues his impressive play including knocking down the game winner with 1 second left. He had 19 points and seven rebounds in the victory.

The Aggies will play the role of host this week in the Gossner Foods Classic. Utah State will be joined by San Francisco, New Mexico State and Texas-San Antonio in the two-day tournament.


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