PUB WISDOM

Tiger Who?

Archive for January, 2009

Clock Runs Out on Riverside

From the peak of UC Riverside’s first road conference win in a coon’s age over Long Beach State last weekend to the valley of yet another heart-breakingly close home loss, the Highlanders are living the drama that comes with being a contendah.

When no one expected them to win, anytime they did was a pleasant surprise. Now that UCR is  in the thick of most games these days, with the guys believing they can — expecting to — win, losses are harder to swallow. The Northridge loss, in which Riverside coughed up a big second-half lead, and last night’s loss to the Eaters, in which they erased a 16-point second-half deficit to briefly lead, only to have UCI shut the door down the stretch, were both gut-wrenching.

The Eaters did what the Niners couldn’t — hit their buckets. Especially Michael Hunter (19 points) and Kevin Bland (17 points on 8-for-8 from the field).  That’s legit.

Kyle Austin poured in a game-high 21 — this guy has to be a lock on first-team All Big West, no? Jessie LoBue and Aaron Scott had a dozen each in support. It’s also worth mentioning that attendance at the Echo Chamber topped 1,000 in what was the largest crowd of the season. People are strating to believe.

The Highlanders fall to 3-4 in Big West play and now face the always-tough  Josh Akognon and Co. in Fullerton on Saturday night. 

Pub Wisdom Predicts: Cal State Fullerton 72, UC Riverside 66

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Highlanders Lock it Down in Long Beach

Step off, son.

Step off, Be-ach.

They went looking for a sacrificial Highlander, someone to come onto their site, LBPostSports.com, to spout and spray about UC Riverside hoops only to have the Niners ultimately eat Rivi’s “lunchables.” They wanted an appetizer before the big game this past weekend between Long Beach State and the Highlanders at the Pyramid. What they got instead was a healthy dose of Pub Wisdom, a Riverside reality check, and — perhaps — some indigestion, as UCR claimed the win, 64-55. Read the Press-Enterprise coverage here.

In all fairness, the dudes from LBPostSports.com are cool and knowledgable, and it was fun to do the little back-and-forth that served as a preview to the game. But let’s face it, they expected that the Niners would easily handle the lowly Highlanders.

And why not expect it? The Niners beat Temple not long ago, for chrissakes. Temple. That thar’s a real basketball team. They beat New Mexico State, which coasted by Riverside in the season opener for both teams. They played Oregon, BYU, Wisconsin and others super tuff and racked up plenty of quality wins, only getting their asses truly handed to them by Big East big-dog Syracuse. And let’s not forget LBSU’s scorching 5-0 run to start Big West play. The Niners — whose roster is chock-a-block with impressionable freshmen — no doubt came into the game with some swagger, while Riverside came in riding a 21-game conference road losing streak.

So they went looking for, and found, a “real life Highlander” to toy with. And yrs truly took the bait. What transpired next was pure Ali in Zaire. Straight rope-a-dope.

I undersold the Highlanders, who then overdelivered. I modestly pointed out their strengths: solid team D, poise down the stretch, balanced scoring. But I didn’t bluster, didn’t claim. Full disclosure: I knew Rivi would come into this game with high intensity, facing the conference frontrunner after dropping three straight Big West fixtures,  but I fully expected them to get outgunned by the 49ers.

Instead, the Highlanders sagged on defense, closing down the lane and daring the 49ers to hit jumpers. They didn’t. Meanwhile, Kyle Austin, Javon Borum, and Adrian Soto all scored in double figures. The Highlanders also significantly outboarded Long Beach State and positively locked down the Pyramid on defense over the final five minutes, in which the Niners failed to score a solitary bucket. All this on TV, no less.

But enough revelry. Let’s level-set, shall we, lest the Highlanders begin to believe the hype. This was a huge win for Highlander hoops — no doubt about it — another proof point in a pleasantly surprising campaign thus far. Now it’s time to make it a replicable phenomenon.

Next up, the Anteaters, those beasts from the Back Bay, visit the Echo Chamber (it may be empty,  but the Highlanders do appear to enjoy home-court advantage there). In a sign of the times, Pub Wisdom actually expects Ws these days, and believes  UC Riverside will deliver one. It should have beaten CSUN at home a couple weeks back, and it will beat UC Irvine there on Thursday.

Pub Wisdom Predicts: UC Riverside 77, UC Irvine 59

Photo: Russell Conroy/LBPostSports.com

My Hero: Jimmy Calderwood

M'man Jimmy C

M'man Jimmy C

A quick hats off to my new hero, Aberdeen gaffer and legendary football man Jimmy Calderwood.

A hearty and heartfelt thanks to him and the Dons for humiliating Celtic at Pittodrie last weekend with an emphatic 4-2 decision that forced Aberdeen to take the lead three different times. That’s some gutty performance. I just watched the rebroadcast on Setanta last night and it was a thing of beauty. Rangers now trail Celtic by just two points.

Inserting Duff was genius, resulting in one goal and a spot-on delivery for an assist on another goal, and Zander Diamond’s second-half double proved too much for the Hoops to handle. Despite all the noise recently about Boruc’s propensity toward howlers of late, I can’t help thinking they missed him up North this trip.

Now, before we all get too cozy, Jimbo, please know that a repeat performance against Rangers, who travel to Pittodrie tomorrow, would reflect poorly on our new-found chumminess so let’s just agree now you’ll get pipped by a late goal by Pedro Mendes or Kenny Miller after Kris Boyd snags another double in the first half. Right? That will see Rangers to the top of the table, thank you very much.

Pub Wisdom Predicts: Aberdeen 2 – 3 Rangers

Rivi’s Road Test

Big test tonight for the 9-3 Highlanders as they tip off in a few short hours against host UC Davis. On one hand, UCR is fortunate to have its first conference road game against the likes of the Aggies instead of Pacific — the Highlanders head to Stockton next — or Northridge.

The Aggies just ain’t all that, which gives UCR a good shot at claiming its 10th win of the season tonight (which would put it past last year’s grand total for wins) and could provide some confidence heading into its game with Pacific on Saturday, which will no doubt be a much more serious affair.

On the other hand, this will be like a playoff game for Davis — the playoff game it didn’t get a chance to play in last year when the Highlanders beat the Aggies in a do-or-die game to close out the season. Rivi went on to the Big West tourney while Davis simply went home. Needless to say, the Aggies will be gunning for the Highlanders tonight. 

Pub Wisdom has a feeling that, after blowing out Cal Poly and gritting out a come-from-behind win against UCSB, the Highlanders are ready for a let down tonight. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Pub Wisdom Predicts: UC Davis 69 — 61  UC Riverside

Bye-Bye Boydy?

byebyeboydyFuggin’ell. I don’t know if I will ever get used to seeing my favorite Rangers head south. I really should, though. Since it seems to happen every time one of them starts shining. Pub Wisdom recalls Hutton and Cuellar  as recent heartbreakers.

It’s at the other side of the pitch this time, with that “enigmatic” striker Kris Boyd apparently in the market for a new flat in Birmingham after he got pissed off enough this season to work hard enough to convince Sir Walter he deserved a regular gig up front — which has resulted in a gaggle of goals.

Enigma? Not really. He’s a pure scorer — nothing mysterious about it. He just flat-out finds the back of the net.  And now, unless we Rangers supporters are incredibly lucky, he’ll be finding the back of the net for the Blues instead of the Light Blues.

Darcheville? Gone. Cousin? Gone. Now it’s bye-bye, Boydy. Our only hope is that Kenny catches fire and gets some help from the rest. Despite what the table says, Celtic is vulnerable this season. Rangers need Boydy’s departure like they need a hole in the head.

Fuggin’ell.

UCR on Wrong End of Blow Out

High-scorin' H-landers?

High-scorin' H-landers?

I have to admit that despite exhibiting a new closeability during their non-conference schedule — it was one of the softest non-conference schedules in the land, after all — I was pleasantly surprised to see the Highlanders downright blow out visiting Cal Poly last night. I don’t remember the last time I saw UCR involved in an in-conference blow out when it was on the winning end. Do you?

The team has consistently squeaked by in any win it grinds out, right? Just squeaked by…

But this.?A 30-plus point blow out? For its 7th — yes, 7th  — home win in a row? Am I having a CCAA refreak?

It’s clear the team have improved overall. And the offensive boost provided by Kyle Austin is providing some desperately needed scoring.

Cal Poly is not Northridge, Fullerton, or Pacific. But I’m telling you right now that this team is hardly the worst team in the conference, despite preseason press and coach consensus. Everyone in the Big West is now sweating their fixtures with the Highlanders.

Bring on the Big West.