PUB WISDOM

Tiger Who?

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

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3 Comments»

  John Savino wrote @

Nice article! I love the Back Bay reference. This is a game that the Highlanders should win, kind of like the 49ers should have beaten UCR at home. That is what scares me.

  Pub Wisdom wrote @

I may be overreacting, but as you can see from the post, Pub Wisdom prognosticates somewhat of a blowout… Time will tell.

  Ryan Z wrote @

I would agree that Rivi should handle Irvine, but then again, you and I are 0-1 so far when we agree. Haha.

The Highlanders did have a great showing against us and sagging in the lane probably made the difference when our shots weren’t falling. All the credit in the world goes to UCR for that win – much as that pains me to say.


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