21st-ranked Chico State men ready themselves for toughest trip of the year

By Mike Baca

The 21st-ranked Chico State Wildcats men’s basketball team notched two wins to ring in the new year setting up a couple of titanic tilts this week against two of the three teams they share first place with in the CCAA.

Chico disposed of Cal State Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve with a 73-55 win. The Cats suffocating defense forced the Golden Eagles to run through their offense multiple times, while also getting back in transition preventing easy buckets for CSLA.  Chico State had four players in double figures led by Corey Silverstrom’s 18 points. An emphasis for the Wildcats was to keep the Golden Eagles off the boards, which Chico did out-boarding CSLA 40-26.

On Saturday the Wildcat men traveled to Carson to take on the Dominguez Hills Toros. Dominguez came into the game as the best 3-point shooting team in the league, knocking down 42 percent of their perimeter tries. While the Toros shot 42 percent from downtown in the game, Chico held the hosts to 14-of-44 shooting from two point range, holding Dominguez Hills to 34 percent shooting for the game. Chico won the game 78-64 withTanner Giddings having the best game of his Chico State career. The senior dominated the paint scoring a career high 20 points grabbing 12 boards and blocking 4 shots.

Chico State will rest for a couple of days before making the difficult trek to Arcata to take on long-time rival Humboldt State on Thursday before heading down to Pomona on Saturday. This week marks the most difficult and maybe the most important week of the regular season.

Chico State, Humboldt State, Cal Poly Pomona and UC San Diego are in a four-way tie for first place in the CCAA with records of 5-1. Not only will the games be difficult  but the travel from Arcata to Pomona is the toughest of the conference season.

In Humboldt the Wildcats must muzzle an electric offense that is averaging nearly 90 points a game. The Lumberjacks are rolling despite, what appeared to be a crippling injury to returning power forward Calvin Young II who tore his ACL weeks before the season started. Five players average double figures for the Jacks, led by senior Rocky Brown who is scoring 20 points and grabbing 9 boards a game. Returning freshman of the year Malik Morgan is having another great year averaging 12 points and 5 assists a game all while shooting 51 percent. While Humboldt is giving up 75 points a game it is a mere footnote when you consider the potency of their offense. The Wildcats defense will be tested in one of best environments in the CCAA.

The Cal Poly Pomona Broncos tasted defeat for the first time this year on Saturday night as the UC San Diego Tritons tripped them up on Saturday in La Jolla. The Broncos had won 12 straight fell at Rimac Arena.

Senior Jordan Faison may be the best player in the league. He has been one of the most consistent performers in the CCAA since he donned Bronco colors. He is averaging 18 points, 7 rebounds all while shooting 62 percent from the field. Faison also patrols the middle in that stingy match-up zone, a staple of  Head Coach Greg Kamansky’s club.

Pomona has never been flashy, but they have always been good. The buy-in from their group is a reason why they have won multiple West Region titles, are a perennial NCAA Tournament team and have won a National Title. More than any other team in the CCAA the Broncos take advantage of opponents’ mistakes. They will rarely beat themselves and they feast on team’s impatience on the offensive end. You take a bad shot, you will pay. This year’s Broncos scored 75 points a game while giving up only 60 points a contest. Considering the reduced shot clock and the faster pace to games, giving up 60 points a game is a tremendous feat.

Chico plays Pomona on Saturday night in a battle between the two teams that have been  the most consistent winners in the CCAA over the last four years.

On both Thursday and Saturday the Chico State men will air at 7:15pm on Newstalk 1290 KPAY, also right here on KPAYSports.com and ChicoWildcats.com

*PHOTO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM