PUB WISDOM

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Brenda Martinez Hearts Europe

BMART rolls through Europe.

BMART rolls through Europe.

UC Riverside track phenom Brenda Martinez is two-for-two so far in her six-meet Europe swing, taking the 1500 title in Ghent, Belgium, blowing away her previous PR by four seconds. Click here to check out footage of the race. 

The Nation’s Hottest Runner?

UC Riverside phenom Brenda Martinez won her semifinal 1500 heat in the NCAA outdoor championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas to earn her spot in Saturday’s final. Impressive.  Did I mention she was hot?
Poetry in motion, coconut lotion...

Poetry in motion, coconut lotion...

UCR Baseball Team Knocking On the Door of the Top 25

The helpful folks in the sports information department have put together this useful little roundup of just how much the UCR baseball team is turning heads nationally.

With quality wins over UCLA, Cal, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State, among others, the Highlanders are now in the conversation on many of the polls and rankings. Take a look here.

Akognon Dismantles the Big West’s Best Defense

Akognon: NBA bound?

Akognon: NBA bound?

The real John Akognon showed up in Anaheim for this one, and he was wearing his superman underoos, pouring in a tournament-record 37, including nine 3s. The chants of “You can’t guard him” were spot on. No one could, methinks.

At one point, with less than five minutes left and before Bob Burton subbed out his starters, the score was Josh Akognon 37, UC Riverside 35. Yikes.

Javon Borum having to serve a one-game suspension after punking someone in the Cal Poly likely made a big impact — not on Josh Akognon’s ability to score, but on the Highlanders’s own scoring. With him out, and Jalonni Diggs gimpy, Wooldridge came out with a very unordodox lineup. The Highlanders’s offense didn’t show up, save for 17 from Brandon Dowdy in the first half.

Despite the loss, this season has been one to celebrate for Rivi.  Big props to the program. Truly an impressive campaign. And the Highlanders return all but two players next season…

Learn to Dance in Four Easy Steps

Take control of the rock, Kyle.

Take control of the rock, Kyle.

Okay, so it won’t be easy. On the contrary, it will likely be the toughest potential four-game stretch of the season. And it will be even tougher with starting point guard and No. 2 scorer Javon Borum sidelined with a one-game suspension for shoving a Cal Poly player in the regular-season finale.

But the Highlanders, who have gone 8-8 in conference play, have proven they can win in this league. They took a game off their first-round opponent, Cal State Fullerton (7-9 in the Big West). However, with the NCAA bid on the line in what is essentially a home game for the Titans, UC Riverside will have to find a way to raise its game in order to compete. The Highlanders’ defense, tops in the Big West, will have to play to form and the offense needs to come alive.

Still no word as to whether senior leader Aaron Scott will play. That would be a huge lift with Borum on the bench. And Pub Wisdom reckons time is nigh for a 30+ performance from Kyle Austin and also feels potential breakout performances from Brandon Dowdy, Rudy Meo, or Jalonni Diggs (if he’s healthy).

Essentially, only one of their best games of the season will see them through to the quarterfinals. Then they’ll have to do it again. And again and again. Consistency has been elusive, despite the program’s watershed year. Now would be a serendipitous time to acquire some.

Pub Wisdom sees a game much closer than last year’s second-round rout by the Titans over the Highlanders, who will contain the Josh Akognon show to provide some first-round fireworks.

Pub Wisdom Predicts: UCR 69, CSUF 65

Zot Got Hot

I had predicted a statement game, and the UC Riverside Highlanders were one rim-out away from just that — a heart-breaking defeat of UC Irvine on the Anteaters’s homecoming night. Instead, the raucous crowd of 3,600+ at the Bren Events Center went home happy when the Anteaters were able to tie it up, 62-62, with less than 30 seconds left in the game with a clutch 3 by Michael Hunter in the corner. Riverside played for — and missed — the last shot in regulation. There’s your rim out.

Patrick Rembert then caught fire, scoring eight of his 11 points in the extra period. And the Zots, who kept turning up the heat throughout the game — shooting about 40% from the floor in the first period and 50% in the second half –stoked the furnace one more time and converted 60% in overtime. It was just too much for Riverside to contend with. So instead of statement game,  we got another tough road loss.

The second half was nip and tuck, featuring really exciting basketball that got the crowd wound up. The “Westside” marketing clown who always shows up at the Bren was geeking extra hard.

Kyle Austin quietly racked up a game-high 24 points for UCR.

UCI’s freshman big-man Eric Wise, who obviously absorbed much under the tutelage of post guru Jeff Dietz, assistant coach at Riverside King High (he learned some stuff from the  rest of the staff too, natch). He was shakin’ and bakin’, unpredictable and just on the edge of control at times, generally creating defensive headaches for Rivi.  He led five Eaters in double figures with 20.

Two conference games remain for UCR. Two roadies against UCSB and Cal Poly. If the Highlanders can break through for wins in both games, no one can take fourth place, and the attendent first-round bye, from them. It will be a tough challenge for the Highlanders, especially in Isla Vista. Unlike mathmatically hopeless Cal Poly, the Gauchos have much left to play for. If they manage to run their last two games, they could swing from as low as 8th up to 4th with help from others, so they will be hungry for the home win.

Pub Wisdom reckons the Highlanders may win one of two, still giving them a shot at the first-round  bye in certain scenarios. All the parity in the league provides the makings for a fascinating Big West tournament. The bid to the big dance is literally up for grabs for the team who can put  a couple-three — hopefully four — wins together. It’s on like Tron.

The 63-60 home win against Fullerton was sweet, by the way. I hooked up with Q-Tip for some SubStation action before tip-off and watched the Highlanders grit out a home win without the injured senior Aaron Scott. 

Josh Akognon, top ten nationally in scoring, drained the equalizing 3 right in front of his bench with 4 ticks remaining, but had stepped out of bounds just prior to launching it, negating the basket and sealing the win for Rivi. Schwing.

How Sweet is Home for Highlanders?

UC Riverside puts its 9-2 home record on the line tonight against LBSU in what is a huge game for both squads.  Are the Niners truly the class of the Big West, as their current position at the top of the table implies? If so, they’ve gotta win road games like this. They’ve proven they can do it — their win at Pacific is emblematic. For the Highlanders, a win tonight would mean sweeping a tough homestand and a 6-5 record — 6 and flippin 5, yo. That’s just freaky.

Riverside closed out UC Davis in front of a SELL OUT crowd of 2725 at the Echodome (can I still cap on it if it sells out? It will be interesting to see how many heads show up when it’s not homecoming).  UCR tried to give the game away to the Aggies a few times in the closing seconds with mental errors but managed to pull it out, despite off nights by team leaders Aaron Scott and Kyle Austin.

How long can I keep calling it the Echo Chamber?

How long can I keep calling it the Echo Chamber?

UCR is  now 5-5 in conference and tied for 4th place. This is the team unanimously tagged to finish last. Let’s not get too excited, but this has been a watershed season just based on what’s gone down so far. A record 13 wins in the D1 era.

Now, back to Long Beach tonight. The Niners will want revenge for being humiliated at home, but will they be looking past Riverside just a bit at their showdown with Fullerton? Let’s hope so.

Here’s my read. Riverside sees this as a huge game and will come out focused. They will outboard LBSU and will be tough on defense. Look for a 20+ performance from Kyle Austin and big nights from Christian Soto, Aaron Scott, and Brandon Dowdy.

Pub Wisdom Predicts: UCR 76, LBSU 66