PUB WISDOM

Tiger Who?

Archive for March, 2008

Done Deal

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The 2007-08 basketball season is a done deal for UC Riverside with an 81-69 loss to Cal State Fullerton last night. Ultimately, they hung tough in this game. The Titans were on — raining threes.

The Highlanders finished 9-21. 7th in conference. First-round survivors of the Big West Tourney. A team with much of which it can be proud. A team with lots of “upside potential,” too.

Hat’s off to the only departing senior, Larry Cunningham, who walked tall through darker seasons than this. A winner despite it all.

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Highlanders Send Stangs to the Glue Factory

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Well, not really, so please don’t call PETA. But the No. 7 seed Highlanders did send No. 6 seed Cal Poly home early with a first-round exit in the Big West Tournament. The Highlanders’ 62-56 UCR victory, was only its second-ever D1 “post-season” win, and its first since the Nate Carter-Vili Morton days.  Read full coverage here.

When the team huddled before tip off, their team cheer was a business-like “Play hard” and ultimately their efforts resulted in a hard-earned if somewhat ugly win. Both teams got off to slow starts, and UCR held a slim 20-17 halftime lead after leading by as many as 10.

Cal Poly came out of the second half with more pressure and even led for a few minutes before UCR went back out in front and the two teams started trading buckets for an extended time. Ultimately, a series of defensive stops by the Highlanders resulted in a consistent 6 to 8-point gap down the stretch, forcing the Mustangs to start fouling with about a minute left. The right strategy, considering the Highlanders’ pathetic average from the stripe, but it didn’t pay off this time as Jalonni Diggs and Larry Cunningham made enough of their free throws to seal the deal.

UCR will have to raise its game to compete with Cal State Fullerton in the early game tonight. The Titans hold the fourth-best ppg average in D1. Fortunately for Rivi, defense and hustle are two of its strong suits. Couple that with a solid team offensive performance and it could be close enough down the stretch to be interesting.

No matter what happens tonight, however, it’s clear that UCR has made forward progress. As mentioned before, the Highlanders are plain competitive this season. Ask UCI, Cal Poly, Long Beach State, and Hawaii — teams they beat — as well as UCSB, Pacific, CSUN and the other teams they played tight.

Wooldridge, here’s your bogey for next season: .500

Pub Wisdom Predicts: CSUF 85, UCR 72

75-66

So I was 3 points off…  (See prediction in my previous post).

UCR — picked last in the preseason coaches poll — handled the UC Davis Aggies from beginning to end to pick up its fourth conference win, 75-66, and finish the regular season in 7th place in the Big West, ahead of UC Davis and Long Beach State. A loss would’ve dropped them to 9th and out of the Big West Tournament.

Sean “No Relation” Cunningham went off the richter for 22 points on 8-of-9 from the field.

So the Highlanders extend their season and earn the chance to see if they can turn their increased competitiveness into a four-game run in the neutral (creepy?) confines of the Anaheim Convention Center. As I said before, weirder things have happened.

First up, sixth-seeded Cal Poly  — a team UCR has beaten before this season — in the late game on Wednesday night. See you in Anaheim. Sorry, not you, Aggies…

Life with Larry

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Going into tonight’s must-win game against UC Davis, the Press-Enterprise profiles UCR’s all-time scoring leader here. The winner earns the right to a shot at an NCAA bid by running the table at the Big West Tournament next week. Stranger things have happened.

Pub Wisdom Predicts: UCR 75, UC Davis 69

King Tops Nationally Ranked Taft

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Riverside King toppled No. 1 seed and nationally ranked Woodland Hills Taft in OT last night! The Wolves  now face Compton Dominguez in the Regional Final on Saturday Night for the right to play in the State Championship at Arco Arena.

Full coverage here: “We couldn’t stop them,” Taft coach Derrick Taylor said. “They were just too quick.”

The Hammer Drops on the 49ers

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 Traded Places: Masi (left) joined Reynolds’ staff for the storied 24-6 season during which all the shit was hitting the fan behind the scenes.

It’s all very anti-climactic, with a year’s worth of dust accumulated on this shady story, but the NCAA dropped the hammer on Long Beach State’s basketball program on Thursday, hitting it with all sorts of sanctions and penalties.

Larry Reynolds, the darling coach who jump-started Long Beach State’s basketball program,  is long gone. T’was all very fishy when, after posting a stellar 24-6 season that included a Big West crown, a coach of the year award, and a sacrificial-lamb gig against Tennessee in the first round of last year’s big dance — LBSU declined to renew Reynolds’ contract.  Huh? That’s strange… Well, the athletic department and others already had more than an inkling of the shit storm brewing under the surface.

Many of the details of wrong-doings seem ticky-tack, others are not —  read this for a detailed analysis of the situation — but it comes down to this: The 49ers loaded up their 05-06 recruiting class with a raft of academically dicey juco transfers and didn’t cross all the Ts on their eligibility. It’s allegedly more nefarious than that, with coaches actively participating in the charade. Former assistant coach Reggie Howard — one of my favorite players during my undergrad years at UC Riverside, I might add — allegedly aided in the enrollment smoke-and-mirrors.

It turns out six players were not eligible, and the 49ers now have to forfeit games and face recruiting sanctions.  Reynolds’s role is unclear, but it’s hard to believe he didn’t have some influence over the way his program recruits. Did he just look the other way and cross his fingers as his staff bac-doored all these juco ballers?

For someone who learned to love Reynolds while he assisted legendary UCR coach John Masi, and who cheered Reggie Howard — who was so cool in college he somehow pulled off wearing a Davey Crockett-style coonskin hat as he rolled around campus (what was that about?!?) — during the D2 hey-day, this is all very sad.  I marveled as Reynolds built a winner at Long Beach, and loved Reynolds even more when he brought Masi into the fold as an associate head coach for the 06-07 season. Even now, I’m ambivalent about these charges. It’s just sad, that’s all.

Wolves Still Prowlin’

Riverside King went into the vaunted house of fabled Westchester and shot the Comets down. Down 16-6 early, the Wolves roared back to close the first half with momentum, then held off the inevitable home-team surge down the stretch for the tuff 77-75 victory. Whew…

Full coverage, including props from Westchester’s Coach Azzam, here.

Up next: The giant-hunting continues as MLK tries to creep Taft of Woodland Hills in the semi-fuggin-finals.