Big West Roundup: Week 10
Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton got clutch performances from their star guards as last second victories highlighted the Big West basketball action last week. UC Irvine also had a big week while Hawaii was dealt two tough losses in its first conference trip to the mainland. Here’s a look at last week’s Big West action.
Last minute heroics
A coast-to-coast drive against Hawaii by Mike Caffey helped Long Beach State (8-8, 4-1) to a 2-0 week, putting the 49ers atop the conference standings. With just over a minute left to play in Saturday’s contest at Long Beach’s Walter Pyramid, Caffey took an inbound pass down to the other end and dropped in a floater to break a 72-72 tie. Hawaii head coach Gib Arnold was issued a technical and ejected from the game, sending Peter Pappageorge to the line for two free throws. Pappageorge hit both to give the 49ers a 76-74 win.
Caffey turned in the performance of the night with 18 points, four rebounds and six assists, leading to a Big West Player of the Week award. Caffey was also instrumental in The Beach’s win over Cal State Northridge earlier in the week, scoring 14 points to start off a 54.4 percent shooting week.
Also coming up big was Cal State Fullerton (10-6, 3-1) guard Kwame Vaughn. Facing UC Riverside (4-12, 1-3) in a tight battle, Vaughn drained a step-back jumper as time expired to lift the Titans over the Highlanders, 71-69, Saturday night at Titan Gym. Vaughn had been cold throughout the night coming into the final stretch of the game. He went just 1-for-11 until the final two seconds, when the senior guard picked up a screen from Deuce McAllister and pulled up for two crucial points.
"Deuce set a great screen for me and a guy jumped to the help side so I turned it down and my teammates were in the right positions," Vaughn said. "I read the defense and hit the shot."
UC Irvine (9-9, 3-2) has typically relied on the strong shooting of senior forward Michael Wilder, but last week his jumper failed him, as he went just 5-for-16 in two games.
Against CSUN on FOX Sports Prime Ticket’s Game of the Week Saturday night, Wilder attempted only two shots. But Wilder still played a key part in the Anteaters’ two-win week, with 14 assists, including nine against the Matadors, 10 rebounds and four steals.
Known for his old school afro, Wilder posted up against the Big West’s other ‘fro belonging to Hawaii’s Isaac Fotu in Wednesday night’s 68-64 win over the Rainbow Warriors. Wilder helped hold the standout freshman to just four points while also helping with the defensive job on Christian Standhardinger (12 points).
“What did Mike do? He made everyone else better,” said UCI head coach Russell Turner. “He’s just a basketball player, he’s fun to watch.”
UCSB staves off the comeback
UC Davis (5-10, 1-3) got in on the nail-biting action by taking UC Santa Barbara (6-10, 2-3) to the wire, Saturday night at the Pavilion in Davis. The Aggies came back from a 12-point deficit to cut the Gaucho lead to just three in the final minute of the game. But forced to foul, UCSB went 4-for-4 at the line to stave off the comeback and hold on for a 66-59 win. Santa Barbara’s Alan Williams absolutely battled, scoring 28 points to lead all scorers. Williams also contributed 11 rebounds, four blocks and three steals to that line as the sophomore center continues to impress. Davis point guard Corey Hawkins scored 23 points with four assists.
Tigers to the top
After suffering a loss in the conference opener to Long Beach State, Pacific (9-7, 3-1) has yet to really struggle in a conference game. The Tigers easily topped UC Davis before taking two easily from Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara last weekend. Only one starter and three players total scored in double-digits against the Gauchos Thursday, with Tony Gill coming off the bench to lead Pacific with 17 points and Saturday, another balanced effort was put forth in a 77-55 win over Cal Poly.
Cal State Northridge (9-8, 0-5) continued its slide with losses at Long Beach State and UC Irvine. Stephan Hicks, once the Big West’s leading scorer has also continued his downward trend, going 1-for-14 against the Anteaters. However, Hicks did torch Long Beach State for a season-high 26 points three nights prior.
Hawaii’s Brandon Jawato, a local product out of El Segundo, had friends and family show up in full force with two area games over the weekend. Jawato scored nine points in front of a cheering section dedicated to him Wednesday, at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, and followed up that performance with 16 points in Long Beach.
What to watch for this week
The central coast rivalry will be televised live on FOX Sports Prime Ticket, Saturday night. With Williams continuing to carry UCSB and Cal Poly falling victim to inconsistencies, it’s an evenly-matched contest.
Upon hearing that shorthanded Cal State Fullerton is often running five-guard sets, Long Beach State center Dan Jennings barely tried to contain his excitement for this weekend’s matchup saying, “I’m going to go to work.” Jennings, a transfer from West Virginia, has been looking forward to playing the Titans all season, embracing the rivalry of his new team.
“I’m excited about that game,” Jennings said. “I know that Santa Barbara has been our rival, but I heard that one is big time.”