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Big West Notebook

January 8, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Big West Conference Notebook

by Marcus Vanderberg

Missing… the real Long Beach State 49ers

Ok, where are the hidden cameras?

When did Candid Camera cross over to college basketball?

Someone obviously played a prank on UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly this past weekend. The Gauchos, up by 21 in the second half against the 49ers squandered their lead and lost 63-62 thanks to an 18-0 run by Long Beach State and a little bit of luck. The game-winning three-pointer was a 25-foot off-balance shot by the 49ers’ Louis Darby that banked in.

Two nights later, the Mustangs, without Shane Schilling (ankle injury) and their head coach Kevin Bromley (father’s funeral), trailed the majority of the game, losing 86-72.

Once the laughing stock of the conference, the 49ers are 2-0, and get this, are tied for first place in the Big West.

Something just doesn’t look right

That basketball hoop over there… it doesn’t look right. It looks a bit… off. I think it’s only 9 feet, 11 inches.

Sad, but true, this was the case on Saturday night when head coach Bob Thomason got a glance at one of the baskets at the Student Recreation Center on the campus of UC Riverside.

He wanted the baskets to be measured. And he was right. One of the two baskets stood just 9 feet, 11 inches, one inch under regulation.

And then they waited… And waited… And waited.

That one inch caused a 65 minute delay in the tip-off between the Tigers and Highlanders.

UC Riverside purchased the hoops second hand from the Michael Jordan “Flight School” basketball camp in Las Vegas in 2001.

Around the Big West

Cal Poly Mustangs (5-5, 0-2)

It was an emotional week for the Mustangs program as head coach Kevin Bromley’s father passed away. He missed his team’s game with the 49ers on Monday and his absence, along with Shane Schilling being injured, were two of the reasons for the loss.

Schilling, who is out indefinitely, sprained his ankle in warm up and did not dress for the game. With Schilling out, Kameron Gray and Nick Enzweiler will have to pick up the scoring slack. Gray is the only player in the Big West to score 30 or more points twice in the season. The sophomore’s problem has been consistency, as he has played games where he has scored just 2, 4, 4, 5 and 7 points.

Cal State Fullerton Titans (4-7, 0-2)

Cal State Fullerton is starting to look like the Cal State Fullerton that has irritated fans for the last 10 years.

The Titans dropped their first two games in conference play at Titan Gym to Cal State Northridge and Pacific. Not falling in a hole is important as CSF travels on the road for its next three games before returning home to host Utah State.

The one positive from this past weekend was the return of Bron Groomes. Groomes suffered a serious hand injury and was expected to be done for the season but he returned last night and played 18 minutes off the bench.

Unfortunately, not too many people were on hand for his return, as only 673 people were in attendance for the game.

Cal State Northridge Matadors (5-5, 1-1)

The Matadors three-game winning streak came to a screeching halt against the Highlanders in a 78-70 Monday night. While starting off strong, UCR used a 22-2 run in the first half to put the game away for good. Even while trailing by 18 in the second half, the Matadors chipped away at the lead, which got as low as 6 before eventually losing. It was their first loss since Eto Onyenegecha became eligible for the Matadors. The 6-6 forward has scored in double figures in all four games, including 22 against UCR – all in the second half because of foul trouble.

Long Beach State 49ers (4-7, 2-0)

I would like to thank myself for the success of the Long Beach State 49ers in the past few weeks. Without my tough love and sarcastic comments, they wouldn’t be sitting on top of the Big West conference as we speak.

The 49ers would like to thank sophomore Louis Darby for his sudden outburst of scoring the past two games. He was selected as Big West Player of the Week by the conference (I disagree). If Long Beach State can split on its upcoming road trip with Pacific and CSUN, they could be looking at a 5-1 conference record when they host UC Irvine at home on January 24.

UC Irvine Anteaters (6-5, 1-1)

The Anteaters bench took a blow last week when backup forward/center Greg Ethington was held out of the first two conference games due to an academic-related issue. The junior is averaging 5.2 points and 2.4 rebounds a game.

After splitting with UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly at home, UCI will travel north on the 405 freeway to play Cal State Northridge on Thursday. The two schools played each other three times last season, with the final game coming in the first round of the Big West tournament. The Anteaters knocked the Matadors out of the tournament in an overtime victory.

UC Riverside Highlanders (4-6, 1-1)

So I know I called out Scott Allen because the Big West is better than the Pac 10 but nobody, I repeat, nobody is better than Sacramento State from the Big Sky. The Highlanders were the latest team to get beat by the Hornets and to wrap up their 4-1 record against teams in the conference.

UCR wraps up its three-game home stand on Saturday when they host Cal State Fullerton. Sophomore sensation Nate Carter has struggled as of late, even coming off the bench in their loss against Pacific where he scored just 7 points.

UC Santa Barbara (7-4, 1-1)

Can we have a moment of silence for the several hundred Gaucho fans who made the three-hour trip from Santa Barbara to Long Beach only to watch their team blow a 21 point second half lead.

(Insert snickering from Long Beach State fans here.)

Now since that’s over, UCSB got back to business on Monday night, knocking off UC Irvine at the Bren Events Center 84-77.

Four Gauchos scored in double figures led by Branduinn Fullove’s 17 points.

The two teams combined for 59 fouls and 60 free throws in a game that was physical to say the least.

A deep UCSB bench has been the key to several wins this season as eight players are averaging over 20 minutes per game.

Idaho Vandals (3-7, 0-1)

Ida-Ida-who?

In all honestly, the Vandals are quietly forgotten in my eyes.

Maybe it’s because they are 0-6 on the road or the fact that their two wins against Division I schools have come against Elon and Eastern Washington.

Or the fact that they and Utah State are the only two schools located outside of California.

But in any event, if the first ten games are any prediction on how the Vandals will do the rest of the way, it could be a long last season in the Big West. Don’t book that ticket to Anaheim in March for the Big West Tournament just yet.

Pacific Tigers (7-6, 2-0)

Because Pacific starts off 2-0 in conference, does that make them the dark horse of the conference?

Since Lee Corso is out of a job until August, I’ll keep his line in use and say “Not so fast, my friend!”

The Tigers played arguably two of the worst teams in the conference in the Titans and Highlanders but that didn’t stop Christian Maraker from having his two best games of the season. Against UCR, Maraker had 18 points and seven rebounds and followed that up with a 26-point performance two nights later.

Utah State (9-1, 1-0)

Must be nice, Utah State

Home cooking, holidays with family and friends, and those white uniforms.

Considering the Aggies haven’t played a game outside of a 90-mile radius of Logan could explain their 9-1 record including 8-0 at home.

Thursday, the Aggies will travel to UC Santa Barbara for what will be their second real road test. The first was a complete failure as rival Utah beat USU 56-45.

Senior Cardell Butler has quietly stepped up his game, averaging 14.8 points per contest. Butler, known last year mostly for his raw athletic ability, is shooting 54 percent from three point range.

Big West Player of the Year Watch

Three newcomers to the list as conference play begins

1. Varnie Dennis – Cal Poly (18.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks)
2. Pape Sow – Cal State Fullerton (18.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 57.9 field goal percentage)
3. Shane Schilling – Cal Poly (17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists)
4. Eto Onyengecha – Cal State Northridge (17.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 61.4 field goal percentage)
5. Kevin Roberts – Long Beach State (15.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game)

Big West Player of the Week

Christian Maraker – Pacific

The talented sophomore averaged 21 points in the first weekend of conference play as the Tigers jump out to a 2-0 conference start.

     

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