Big West Roundup: Week 11
A record-breaking performance by UC Davis' Corey Hawkins highlighted the week that was in the Big West Conference. Meanwhile, Long Beach State continued its reign and Cal State Northridge continued its free-fall. Here's a look at last week's best action in the Big West.
Hawkins Shoots the Lights Out
A 40-point performance by Aggie guard Hawkins inked his name in the UC Davis 7-10, 3-3) record books. Hawkins' 40 points against Hawaii broke UC Davis' 34-year all-time single game scoring record and was the most points scored in a Big West game this season. Hawkins' helped the Aggies to a 93-82 win over the Rainbow Warriors with what was arguably the best stat line of a Big West player this season: 40 points on 10-of-14 shooting, 8-for-9 from behind the arc and 12 rebounds.
It was the highest total since the Davis made the jump to Division I in 2003 and was also the highest road total recorded by an Aggie.
"That is as good as it gets," said UC Davis head coach Jim Les. "He has been spending time in the gym before practice, after practice and before games constantly working on his jumper.
In addition, he was a perfect 12-for-12 from the line, making all 12 shots in the final 1:53 to end Hawaii's comeback bid and effectively hand the ‘Bows their first loss on their home court and the Aggies biggest win of the season.
"How often do you see someone score 40 points off 14 shots? He was unbelievably efficient," Les said. "We want the ball in his hands, especially late in the game; there is nothing more discouraging to an opposing team that is trying to catch up than someone who makes his free throws."
Hawkins attributed the performance to the offense moving the ball well.
"We made the extra passes when we needed to and had wide open looks throughout the game," Hawkins said. "This was a fun night for me and my teammates playing in front of a hostile crowd. All we tried to do was focus on what we needed to accomplish to win the game."
His efforts earned him a Big West Player of the Week award as well as national recognition by College Sports Madness, who named him their National Mid-Major Player of the Week.
Ahead of the Pack
Long Beach State (10-8, 6-1) went 2-0 this week and has started to distance itself from the rest of the conference. However, it wasn't an easy stretch as the 49ers needed overtime to get past UC Riverside Thursday and survived a close call by rival Cal State Fullerton Saturday.
In a game that featured 16 lead changes, Fullerton tied the game up at 62 with 6:24 left. But The Beach went on a 13-6 run to power past the Titans and win 81-71.
"This team grew a lot this week," said head coach Dan Monson. "These were character wins for these guys. In both games, we got behind on the road and lost momentum, but they were able to trust each other and pull together to win. This is only the third week these guys have played together as a team and I think their chemistry is really starting to show."
The 49ers have now won five straight and have done so using a balanced scoring effort. Contributions from both the starters and the role players have led an efficient offense. The steadying influence of point guard Mike Caffey has led the 49ers to a 49.1 percent field goal mark in conference games, the best percentage in the Big West.
Right behind The Beach in the Big West standings is Pacific (10-8, 4-2) and Hawaii (10-8, 4-3). The Rainbow Warriors opened the week by knocking off the Tigers at home, extending their Stan Sherriff Center win streak to four games, before UC Davis put an end to it. But the play of Hawaii's big men still continues to impress. Forward Christian Standhardinger is averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in conference play and center Vander Joaquim is has put up nearly a double-double in each Big West game with 11.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Forward Isaac Fotu has been even better in conference with 13 points per game, 2.5 more than during the non-conference season.
However, Pacific has played consistent, and the veteran squad has a favorable schedule coming up with three-straight at home in the Spanos Center and the only two teams the Tigers have struggled with, Long Beach and Hawaii, they will get at home the second time around.
CSUN Still Winless
The Cal State Northridge team that started the season 6-0 has somehow disappeared. Instead, CSUN has opened up to an 0-7 start in Big West play.
This weekend's games were particularly frustrating for the Matadors. CSUN (9-10) was edged by UC Davis 74-71 Thursday, and Saturday launched a strong comeback bid but their first-half hole was ultimately too big to dig out of.
Head coach Bobby Braswell is frustrated but more concerned with how his young team, the youngest in Division I, is going to handle the rest of the season.
"Our young guys are going through a stretch that has been very difficult," said Braswell. "The freshmen are struggling a bit. Their numbers are going down. It's the rigors of a long season. We warned them this would happen. But I'm hoping they get their second legs and get going again."
Hawkins hasn't limited his scoring outbursts to just recent games. Hawkins' 19.2 points per game leads the Big West and is ranked 23rd in Division I.
Ennis scored 17 points on Thursday and 23 Saturday, extending his streak of double-digit scoring numbers to 23 games. The senior forward has benefitted from big men Tony Freeland and Dan Jennings significantly but according to his coach you never would have known.
"It was great to see James have such an impressive performance since he's been a little frustrated lately," Monson said after Saturday night's game against Fullerton. "He showed why he's our best player down the stretch."
The best big man in the conference might be the one that no one is talking about: UC Santa Barbara's Alan Williams. At just 7-10 and 3-3 in the Big West, the young Gauchos haven't garnered the same attention as the back-to-back Big West champion Gauchos of old but Williams will likely be the key piece that helps Santa Barbara get back there. The 6-foot-7 Williams leads the Gauchos in both scoring and rebounding, with his 9.9 rebounds per game good enough for 19th in the country. Only a sophomore, Williams still has room to grow and has yet to hit his full potential.
What to Watch For
Hawaii returns to the mainland to take on UC Santa Barbara in the FOX Sports Prime Ticket Game of the Week Saturday. This game will feature some of the best big men in the conference, with Joaquim and Standhardinger going up against Williams.
Cal State Fullerton, one of the top offensive teams in the Big West, will look to bounce back from an 0-2 weekend but will have to tangle with the Big West's second-best defense in Pacific.