Chico State Wildcats Men’s Hoops Must Buck the Trend to make History

WILDCATS CHASE HISTORY ON ROAD-TRIP

The Chico State men’s basketball team has gone one full month and hasn’t lost a game. 9 games 9 wins. The school record for most consecutive wins is 11 set in 1953-54 and duplicated in the 2013-2014 campaign. To make history the Wildcats must win games in two of the toughest venues on the West Coast. This historic run will be tested this week as the Wildcats venture on the most arduous road-trip on the CCAA schedule.

On Thursday the Wildcats venture to Cal State San Bernardino. Chico was pushed to the limit by the Coyotes in early January. The Wildcats survived 30 points from Jacob Thomas and knocked off the Yotes 75-73 in overtime. For a Chico team that prides itself on defense, San Bernardino had their way from beyond the arc knocking down 11-three pointers in making the Cats sweat.

On Saturday the Wildcats make the trek to Arcata to play the arch-rival Humboldt State Lumberjacks. The last time the Wildcats tasted the bitter pill of defeat was against the nemesis Jacks’. Allan Guei’s 18 footer with a tenth-of-a-second left gave the Jacks a 74-73 win on January 9th.

The Wildcats have allowed under 60 points in seven of their last eight games, all victories. The last time teams’ put over 70 on Chico State was at Acker Gym on January 9th against Humboldt and January 10th against San Bernardino. This will be a huge test for Chico State’s attacking and relentless defense. Both teams have highly skilled offensive players that can score even against good defenders. This means not only will Chico need to be at their best on the defensive end, but offensively their pacing, ball movement and togetherness will be vital. Being stagnant and having the ball “stick” as Head Coach Greg Clink likes to say, will not work this weekend.

Chico State sits at 16-5 overall and 13-3 in the CCAA. They are one game clear of Cal Poly Pomona, two clear of Cal State Stanislaus and three games ahead of UC San Diego. How have they won 9 straight ? How are they in first place after most prognosticators had them pegged for a 4th or 5th place finish ? Let’s take a look……

DEFENSE WINS

The Chico State Wildcats are defending the “heck” out of teams. I would use more vociferous terms, but this is a family blog. Suffocating, swarming,  and relentless. At times, Chico State has been flawless defensively this year. This team defends better than last year’s Elite Eight team. They are bigger, more agile and create match-up problems. Their size inside makes them tough to navigate in the paint, while their ball-hawking tenacity on the perimeter makes it difficult for opponents to get into a rhythm offensively. There have been times this year where the Wildcats have been dis-jointed and stunted on the offensive end.  In these instances they have won games solely because they defend. The best thing about this team defensively…..they love getting after it. During this 9-game winning streak the Cats have been at their best on the defensive end holding opponents to fewer than 60 points in seven of those games. In 16 CCAA games the Wildcats are giving up an average of 58 points a contest.

GOTTA LOVE THOSE KIDS

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The Chico State youngsters have been incredible. It’s clear these red-shirt freshman were paying attention to the Amir Carraway’s, Rashad Parker’s, Gio Estrada’s and Sean Park’s last year. These young freshman have stepped right in and given the Wildcats a jolt of exuberance, passion and hunger the program needed on the heels of their first Elite Eight in history. Sophomore Robert Duncan and red-shirt freshmen Corey Silverstrom (injured now), Isaiah Ellis and Tyler Harris have played great giving the Wildcats a boost. True freshman point guard Jalen McFerren is fearless. He is an absolute treasure, who never backs down. Sophomore Trevor Priest has given the Cats valuable defensive minutes off the bench. While Wildcat faithful may like to say the “future is bright.” These youngsters say the “future is now.”

Duncan has just garnered his second straight CCAA Player of the Week honor as he had back-to-back 19 point efforts in the Wildcats two wins versus UCSD and Pomona. Two weeks ago, Duncan had the now famous post-game chat with Greg Clink telling his coach, “I think I can take most these guys who are trying to check me.” To which Clink responded, “then do it then.”  Four games and two Player of the Week honors later, we may be seeing an emerging star in Wildcat Cardinal and White.

SIMPLY SEMPLE

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We are running out of superlatives for the Arcata product. Jordan Semple leads the conference in rebounding and blocked shots and ranks in the top-20 in scoring, assists and steals. He simply does it all. His defensive prowess was on display on Saturday night against Cal Poly Pomona’s supremely talented forward Terrence Drisdom. While Drisdom scored 16 points, he could have had an even better offensive night. Semple was able contain the Broncos versatile forward. Semple played 13 minutes in the first half against the Broncos on Saturday and did not attempt a shot. His length and stellar defensive play on ball and in help was a big reason why the Wildcats held the Broncos to 19 points and forced 12 turnovers in the game’s first half.

Semple is averaging 11 points and nearly 9 rebounds and close to two blocks a game. His silky smooth touch around the bucket and his ability against smaller and even bigger players makes him as valuable as anyone on any team in this conference and maybe in this region.

One of Semple’s biggest weapons can also be his kryptonite…..emotion. Semple has a tendency to get a little over-zealous in his celebratory exultations. He has been whistled for three technicals on the season. This weekend will be a highly emotional home-coming for Semple. He returns to the hometown school (Humboldt State) he spurned for Chico State. The fans always give him the business when he gets to Lumberjack Arena, and it will be at a fever pitch this Saturday. It is imperative Semple keep his emotions in check. I don’t worry about Semple getting frustrated. No, I worry about the supremely confident Semple. I worry about that “chip” he carries each and every time he does something so silky smooth that he elicits a Jammal Wilkes reference from yours’ truly. No smiles, no finger-wags. Semple is at his best when he simply cold-blooded. I expect him to play great. A win for the Cats and Semple in Arcata on Saturday night would make three wins in four tries for Semp and the Cats in the last four years at Lumberjack Arena.

WE WILL TAKE COMPLEMENTS

Other schools may see Tanner Giddings, Mike Rosaroso  Chris Magalotti and Drew Kitchens as complementary pieces. Chico State fans know better. The 6’10 Giddings has been steadily getting better since the first game. When Chico goes into their 2-3 zone defense, Giddings usually plays on one of the low blocks. At his size he is nightmare for offenses. His ability to clog the middle, rotate and close-out on shooters isn’t seen at his size in this conference. He is an active defender who really makes Chico’s defense work.

Rosaroso is exactly what a Greg Clink coached team needs at point guard. He makes good decisions and doesn’t turn the ball over. In 555 minutes of basketball this season Rosaroso has committed 32 turnovers. That is 1 turnover for every 17 minutes and 34 seconds played. When you consider that Clink has handed the keys to the  car for Rosaroso to drive, he has done it with aplomb. Rosaroso also has the penchant to hit a big shot. While he is only shooting 33 percent, he finds himself with the ball in big moments and is asked to make the dagger jumper. He has been knocking it down. And, for a team that hasn’t shot their free throws that well this season, Rosaroso is the exception shooting them at an 83% clip.

Drew Kitchens has been starting for the last several weeks. His performance has been a key to the Cats success. He has greatly improved as a defender over the last few years and now the Wildcats can confidently expect Kitchens to make the right decision when it comes to their team defensive principles. Kitchens has also been getting loose from three point range and gives the Cats some punch from beyond the arch. He has also improved his game off-the-dribble.

While Chris Magalotti no longer starts, he is vital to what the Wildcats want to do on the defensive end. Magalotti is a space eater. When the Cats have the 6’10 Magalotti and Giddings on the floor together when playing zone it is nearly impossible to get to the rim for opponents. Magalotti will be asked to continue being that defensive presence when the match-ups call for it.

BUCK THE TREND

The six CCAA teams that have gone to Coussoulis Arena in San Bernardino and Lumberjack Arena in Arcata have all made the trip and lost. Both Humboldt and San Bernardino are a combined 17-1 at home this year. The task is clear and it’s not easy. The only loss suffered by either squad this year was when San Bernardino beat Humboldt on November 22nd in Arcata. With that said the Wildcats are undaunted by road challenges. They are 6-1 away from home this year and are an amazing 17-3 away from home over the last 20 CCAA games away from Acker Gym.

On the surface perennial power San Bernardino is having a down year but don’t be fooled. This is still an explosive,  talented team that is on quite a roll. They have won four straight games and are undefeated at home (6-0.) The Coyotes have been the road warriors this year playing 13 of their 19 games away from their home arena.

When looking at Humboldt I have to scratch my head. How is this team 9-7 in the CCAA ? How ? They are one of the most talented teams I have ever seen in this league. I don’t get how this team is languishing in sixth place. Austin Bryan is as pure a shooter you can get with great size. David Howard is a 6’7 stud with a sweet left-handed stroke and the size to take anyone off the dribble. Why he isn’t averaging at least 15 points a game, minimum is beyond me. Allan Guei is a tremendous slasher/scorer and baller. He has put the Jacks’ on his shoulders and led them to victory numerous times this year including the Chico game earlier this season. He is also a tenacious perimeter defender that can wreak havoc with his ball pressure. When you throw into the mix talented freshman point guard Malik Morgan, who figures to be a star in this league for years to come………..personally I think this is one of the biggest under-achieving teams I have ever seen in 15 years of watching CCAA hoops. This team is too good to have lost 7 league games.

Allen Guei game-winning shot against Chico State on January 9th…

This promises to be a fun, nerve-wracking and thoroughly entertaining weekend of basketball. You can hear the games on Newstalk 1290-KPAY beginning on Thursday. The women play at 5:30 on both Thursday and Saturday nights. The men play at 7:30 on both nights. You can also hear the games on KPAY.com, the KPAY mobile app and ChicoWildcats.com

PHOTOS COURTESY OF JASON HALLEY OF CHICO STATE AND CHICO STATE ATHLETICS…..

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