Big West roundup: Week 14

The most important moment in Big West basketball last week happened in Fullerton, when the women’s basketball team took the court for the first time since the tragic death of assistant coach Monica Quan. Meanwhile, on the men’s side Hawaii knocked off the conference’s top team but Long Beach State got some help from Pacific to retain its spot as the Big West’s team to beat.
 
Remembering Monica Quan
The Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball team will always remember Coach Mo with one key basketball term: box out. Lauren Bushong explained her late coach’s defensive prowess in what was a happier, more reflective moment in Saturday’s postgame press conference, following a 64-45 loss to UC Riverside.
 
“She would tell us that constantly, she had charts to check how many box-outs you missed, how many o-boards you got,” Bushong said. “I think whenever we’re rebounding in practice she’s in the back of your head saying, “Crash the boards!” or “Box out!” and I think that’s probably what we will remember on the court.”
 
Athletic director Jim Donovan remembered Quan for something else.
 
“Her smile,” Donovan said. “I think that’s what most everybody will tell you, she just had a beautiful smile and was a really, really nice person.”
 
Standhardinger repeats
For the second week in a row, Hawaii’s Christian Standhardinger was named Big West Player of the week after leading the Rainbow Warriors to a big home sweep that put his team close behind Long Beach State in the Big West standings.
 
Standhardinger averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds and was one of the ‘Bows’ biggest factors in its 90-73 route of Long Beach State last Thursday. In what was a monster night for Hawaii, Standhardinger scored 20 points and pulled down 13 boards. He went 8-of-11 at the line and also added in three assists and three steals.
 
Standhardinger was one of three Warriors with seven or more field goals, as Hauns Brereton (21 points) also netted eight and Vander Joaquim (18 points) had seven.
 
Two nights later, the ‘Bows (15-9, 9-4) avenged an early conference-season loss to UC Irvine when Standhardinger led the team to a 78-72 win against the Anteaters.
 
It was Hawaii’s fourth-straight win and the Warriors have used strong play on both ends of the court to go on this streak. Joaquim and Standhardinger are two of the conference’s top rebounders and are part of an offense that has been executing better than it has all season which could be dangerous coming into the final conference stretch.
 
Escape artists
Long Beach State (14-9, 10-2) had been shaky coming into the weekend. The 49ers barely squeaked out wins over UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly before traveling to Hawaii, a notoriously difficult road trip and difficult place to play. They were then routed by the ‘Bows, seeing an eight-game winning streak come to an end, but were still able to stay in first place after Pacific’s loss to Cal Poly earlier in the night.
 
The Beach then traveled up the 405 to Cal State Northridge (13-12, 4-9) and proceeded to fall behind by 11 points. After chipping away at the lead in the second half, Long Beach finally was able to overtake the Matadors with a 6-0 run with seven minutes left in the game. The game remained close and was tied up at 73 with less than a minute left to play but a Mike Caffey three and two free throws gave the 49ers the decisive edge they needed, as they went on to win, 83-80.
 
“This was a huge win for us,” said head coach Dan Monson. “You can only define a team by how they respond after losing a game like we did in Hawai’i. You either fall apart as a team, or come together and win. That is what we did tonight. We showed a lot of character and who we are as a team. We were down 11 and came together. It’s a real turning point for this team.”
 
It was the three Long Beach mainstays, Mike Caffey, James Ennis and Peter Pappageorge that powered the 49ers.
 
Caffey scored 20 points in the second half to finish with a game-high 22 points and five assists. Pappageorge came off the bench for 15 points and four rebounds while Ennis filled up the stat sheet with 21 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
 
Long Beach managed to escape the rough weekend with its first-place standing still in-tact.
 
Gauchos’ gritty win
Alan Williams had just returned to the UC Santa Barbara (8-15, 4-8) lineup when he suffered yet another injury. Midway through the first half of the Gauchos’ Saturday game against Pacific, Williams, the Gauchos leading scorer and rebounder, suffered a sprained ankle and was forced to leave the game. UCSB had just nine active players remaining but those nine worked to go on a 12-0 run that put the Gauchos ahead for good and held the Tigers to just a 30.4 percent mark from the field.
 
The Gauchos didn’t give up, much the way they have refused to give up in this challenging, rebuilding season, and came away with a 66-53 win.
 
“I thought the team really rallied after Al went down in the first half,” said head coach Bob Williams. “That was a pretty gutty effort and I’m proud of this group. The fact that we out-rebounded them 40-29 and played without Al for 32 minutes says a lot.”
 
It was exactly situation that Pacific head coach Bob Thomason was hoping to avoid.
 
“Santa Barbara is in a desperate situation and have their backs to a wall, so we have to come out, match that and outplay them,” Thomason said following Thursday’s loss to Cal Poly. “We have to bring the fight as a team.”
 
That fight was nearly absent. Aside from the rebound margin, the Tigers made only one three in 14 attempts in the second half and had only 10 assists.
 
Quick Hitters
While the Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball team struggled against UC Riverside, the men’s team wanted to be there in support of their counterpart. The team sat in the student second, wearing shooting shirts that matched those of the women for the first half of the game before boarding a bus for their own bout with Riverside, Saturday afternoon. Fueled by the emotional week, the Titans earned a solid, hard-fought 79-67 win over the Highlanders on FOX Sports Prime Ticket, also honoring Quan with their play. “It really meant a lot for ‘Mo’ and her family so that one is for her,” said forward Sammy Yeager … UC Davis will get its first nationally-televised game on its home floor of The Pavilion when it hosts Long Beach State in an ESPN2 Wild Card Game. “UC Davis is a hidden gem; if we do our part, we can continue to garner additional attention towards this great community, university and our basketball program,” said Aggies head coach Jim Les.