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Big West Notebook

February 3, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Big West Conference Notebook

by Marcus Vanderberg

12 wins and slowly creeping towards the Top 25

Utah State is proving to the Big West that they are head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in the conference. The Aggies are on a remarkable winning streak which is currently at 12 games. Their last two victories came without their team leader Spencer Nelson who was out with a broken nose suffered in practice.

Sophomore Nate Harris stepped in for Nelson and averaged 25 points in Utah State’s victories over Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside. On the season, Harris is averaging 11.7 points on 70 percent field goal shooting and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Three Matadors still suspended

Cal State Northridge juniors Chris Davis, Joseph Frazier and freshman Andre Foy have all been suspended indefinitely by head coach Bobby Braswell for violating team rules on their road trip to Idaho and Utah State. The three players have now missed three games and their suspension is on a day-by-day basis. Frazier and Davis are the Matadors third and fifth leading scorers, respectively, and are both starters. The Matadors have struggled with them out of the lineup going 1-2.

Watch out for that flying….doh!

If you wanted a reason why most Big West teams don’t serve alcohol at their arenas, here’s a good one:

Several members of the Completely Insane Anteaters, a student fan group from UC Irvine made the trip to the Pyramid for their showdown with Long Beach State. Earlier in the game, a beer can was thrown on the court from the 49ers section and a warning was given. Well someone had the idea of “Anything you can do, I can do better” and later threw a water bottle on the court. But instead of the technical going to the home team, it went towards UC Irvine. The fan, who was escorted out was wearing a yellow CIA t-shirt.

Two free throws later by 49ers guard Jibril Hodges and the momentum had completed shifted towards Long Beach State as they pulled out a 77-74 overtime victory.

Big West Player of the Year Watch

Top three players on the list play for teams with losing records

1. Pape Sow – Cal State Fullerton (17.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 53.6 field goal percentage)

2. Varnie Dennis – Cal Poly (18.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks)

3. Shane Schilling – Cal Poly (17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists)

4. Spencer Nelson – Utah State (11.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 60.6 field goal percentage)

5. Jeff Gloger – UC Irvine (10.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists per game)

Big West Player of the Week

Nate Harris – Utah State

Seriously … 70 percent field goal shooting for the season! That’s just not fair.

Cal Poly Mustangs (6-9, 1-6)

“We will win the Big West conference” – Varnie Dennis at Big West Media Day

Well …not exactly Varnie.

After a great performance in non-conference play with victories over California and USC on the road, nobody has been fooled by the Mustangs in conference play as they have jumped out to a 1-6 start and currently sit in dead last.

Their latest loss came at the hands of the short-handed Matadors who had just nine guys (Of the nine, four were walk-ons) dressed for the game.

The senior, Dennis, was benched in the first half as Cal Poly officials claimed he had a “touch of the flu.” Other reports claimed he was bench by head coach Kevin Bromley.

Following his seven-point, four rebound-performance, Dennis walked off the court without shaking hands with the opposing Matadors.

Cal State Fullerton Titans (6-10, 2-5)

Senior Pape Sow is slowly figuring out he can’t do it alone. The Titans center who is second in points and first in rebounding in the Big West has been the only consistent player for head coach Bob Burton. Senior Anthony Bolton has been declared academically ineligible which has caused an offensive strain. Bolton was third on the Titans in scoring and second in rebounding and assists.

After defeating Idaho 70-59, the Titans are gearing up for a two-game road trip to Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara before returning home for a crucial three-game home stand.

Cal State Northridge Matadors (7-9, 3-5)

With Frazier and Davis out, the three-headed junior monster of Ian Boylan, Davin White and Eto Onyenegecha scored 71 of the Matadors’ 80 points in their nine-point victory over Cal Poly. The win kept Northridge out of the bottom two spots in the conference which is important when the Big West Tournament rolls around in March. The top eight teams qualify while the Matadors are currently in seventh place.

Long Beach State 49ers (5-11, 3-4)

The 49ers have been a bit of surprise even with a 3-4 conference record. While struggling on the road still, Long Beach State has defeated Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara and now UC Irvine at the Pyramid. Their victory over the Anteaters on Saturday snapped a four-game losing skid. Once picked to finish dead last in the conference, the 49ers are competing for a spot in the Big West tournament.

Senior Kevin Roberts eclipsed the 500 career rebound mark and is just 39 shy of reaching the all time Top 10 list for the 49ers. He currently ranks sixth in the Big West averaging 7.1 rebounds per game.

UC Irvine Anteaters (9-7, 4-3)

UC Irvine might be glad they are playing Utah State in Logan – this way none of their fans can affect the outcome of the game. The Anteaters will face an Aggies team that has been dominating in the Big West, winning 12 in a row. The one advantage for UCI is these two teams in their last five contests against each other have been separated by seven points or less in the outcome.

Sophomores Jeff Gloger and Mike Efevberha have been outstanding all season. Gloger is quietly putting up player of the year like numbers averaging 7.5 rebounds per game from the point guard position.

UC Riverside Highlanders (6-9, 3-4)

Losers of three of their last four, UC Riverside hits the road for what will be three crucial games in the race to qualify for the Big West tournament. If the Highlanders want to keep their fifth place standing, they will have to find a way to win a game on the road.

UCR had a great opportunity of knocking off a short-handed Utah State team but was unable to hold on for the victory. Trailing 61-58 with 12 seconds, the Highlanders had a chance to tie but Brett Ost’s pass was stole by Mark Brown.

On Thursday night, the Highlanders were defeated by Idaho in overtime.

Sophomore Nate Carter has three double-doubles in the last five games and is averaging nine rebounds per game in conference play.

UC Santa Barbara (10-6, 4-3)

The Gauchos have been on a roller coaster ride all season. With the returns of Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones, the Gauchos were expected to get back on track. But both players have struggled to get back in the flow of things and the Gauchos have been inconsistent. Last Thursday, the Gauchos almost squandered a 22-point lead to Cal State Northridge before eventually holding for a 59-47 victory. Two days later, Pacific dominated the Gauchos from start to finish as UCSB was embarrassed on national television.

Defense has been the key for success for the Gauchos. They are 7-0 when holding opponents to 60 points or less this season.

Idaho Vandals (5-11, 2-5)

The Vandals picked up an important road victory on their latest trip to California by defeating UC Riverside. Things will get a little easier for Idaho as they play their next five games at home over a span of nine days. Sandwiched in between conference games is a contest against in-state rival Idaho State.

Senior Tyrone Hayes had a season-high 23 points on 11-15 shooting in their victory over the Highlanders.

Idaho recorded 14 block shots over their last two games which increased their conference leading 4.71 blocks per game in conference play.

Pacific Tigers (12-7, 7-1)

OK, OK, so maybe Pacific is indeed the dark horse of the conference. The Tigers are sitting comfortably in second place at 7-1as they approach the halfway mark in conference play. Their only blemish in conference play came at the hands of Utah State who defeated them at the Spanos Center.

Sophomore Christian Maraker recorded his fifth game scoring 20 or more points against Cal Poly. After a slow start, Maraker is averaging 14.3 points per game which is sixth in the Big West.

The Tigers and the Matadors lock up on Saturday night at the Matadome on Fox Sports Net 2.

Utah State (15-1, 7-0)

They keep winning … and winning … and winning.

Unfortunantly, none of those wins may matter if the Aggies don’t win the Big West tournament. The last time two teams from the Big West made the NCAA tournament was in 1993. So while 15-1, the Aggies could be on the outside looking in come March, even with another 20+ win season.

Nate Harris contributing off the bench was crucial in road victories over UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton. The 6-7 forward is just three made field goals shy of qualifying for the field goal percentage category. His 70 percent clip would lead the nation.


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