Rarely does a first place showdown live up to its billing, Friday night was the exception. Behind 41 points from sophomores Isaiah Ellis and Corey Silverstrom and a well devised and executed defensive game plan against the sharp-shooting UC San Diego Tritons, the Chico State Wildcats vaulted into first place in the CCAA with a 77-71 win.
The victory moves the 9th-ranked Wildcats to 19-3 overall and 13-2 in the CCAA putting the Cats in the driver’s seat for their third conference title in five years. Ellis scored 20 of his career-high 26 in the second half and Silverstrom scored 12 of his 15 in the second stanza, which included a sequence where he railed a three from the top of the key to put the Cats up six, and then picked the pocket of a Triton and went coast-to-coast for a lay-up giving Chico an 8-point lead with two-and-a-half minutes to go.
The game had everything…. drama, competitiveness and stakes. The winner not only put themselves in position for the CCAA title, but also solidified their spot in the Western Regional rankings with March Madness fast approaching.
Coming into the game Chico knew the potency of the Triton offense. Their ability to stroke the three was a vital part of their arsenal. Chico’s version of the no-doubles defense worked like a charm, holding the Triton sharp-shooters to 5-for-17 from three point range. Drew Dyer, who victimized the Cats in Chico’s visit to La Jolla last year, was held to 13 points and ONLY attempted TWO three-point shots. Dyer came into the game shooting 51 percent from three point range and had made 65 THREES on the year. Everywhere the savvy veteran turned there was a Chico defender in his face. Chico was switching screens with constant flawless rotations. It wasn’t just one guy doing the job. Robert Duncan had the majority of the covers, but we also saw Silverstrom, Ellis, Tanner Giddings, Jalen McFerren, Nate Ambrosini, Tyler Harris……heck even Chris Magalotti got switched out on him. Every time he “thought” he had a look the Wildcats would close out beautifully, hand in face, up against him.
It was stellar ball denial and close-outs.
Hopefully when the Wildcats woke up from their dreamy slumber this morning they realized yesterday’s gone, and all that matters is today. The Cal State San Bernardino Coyotes are lying in wait. The Yotes are playing some great ball and they are looking to make a late push to get into the CCAA Conference Tourney after struggling early in the campaign. This is not the same team that stumbled out of the gate.
I would be really surprised if a Greg Clink coached team isn’t ready to go tonight. He is so good at re-focusing his group and living in the present.
It’s a big day for Chico State Athletics. The Chico State baseball team plays a double-header against Academy of Art looking to avenge their first loss of the season yesterday. The double-dip starts at 12 noon. Chico State softball takes on 19th-ranked Sonoma State in Rohnert Park after splitting yesterday’s double-header. And Chico State basketball is on Newstalk 1290 KPAY tonight at 5:06 with the women at 5:30 and men at 7:30.
Hit the LISTEN LIVE links above to listen to Chico State baseball at noon and also Chico State basketball at 5:06. Mitch Cox will provide Wildcat softball updates during the Chico State baseball broadcasts.
*PHOTO COURTESY OF CHICO STATE ATHLETICS AT CHICOWILDCATS.COM*