PUB WISDOM

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The Beach’s New Riverside Reality

Last-second Larry puts the Niners on ice.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, UC Riverside served as punching bag for the rest of the Big West conference, a walkover, a laughing stock. And Long Beach State, the program with arguably the best historical pedigree among Big West squads, was laughing right along with the rest. Honestly, who could blame them?

That was then. Now? Not so much.

Three up, three down — that’s Long Beach State’s new Riverside reality. The 49ers are Oh! for their last three against UCR, including  a Highlander home-and-away sweep last season and Riverside’s home squeaker on Saturday, a 69-67 overtime win.

Yeah, yeah, if the Niners had managed to shoot more than 60% from the charity stripe, they would’ve won easily. But guess what? They didn’t. Long Beach coach Dan Monson, no slouch when it comes to basketball insights, seems to think that the Wooldridge brand of hard-nosed play was so frustrating for his team that they had trouble settling down enough to convert at the free-throw line.

So it seems the Niners  — and the rest of the league — better adjust to the new Riverside reality, lest they suffer more frustration.

Larry Gurganious, the one-time Gonzaga reserve whose long and winding road landed him in Riverside with one year of eligibility, nailed his second buzzer-beating game-winner of the season when his spinning reverse lay-up went in with 1.2 seconds remaining in overtime.

I’m still not sure what to make of Larry. I’ve seen some flashes of brilliance from him in the games I’ve see live, but I’ve also seen a sometimes spacey player prone to mental mistakes. He’s proven that he’s capable of rising up to finish when given the opportunity. Pub Wisdom advises LG to get more aggressive in order to unleash his obvious athleticism even more. One exception: on the fast break, let someone else push the ball while you get in position for the finish. I think I might have better handles, and that’s saying something.

Pub Wisdom is savoring the start of the conference schedule, eager to see just how well the Highlanders size up against the rest of the Big West.  Next up at the  Student Rec Center, where the Highlanders boast an 11-game winning streak? The always-tough UCSB Gauchos. Pub Wisdom’s take? Bring that Isla Vista junk.

Pub Wisdom Predicts: UCR 73, UCSB 66

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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.

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

Highlander Betwixt the Sticks for L.A. Galaxy?

alamo.jpg

Big West Keeper of the Year Charles Alamo, who helped UC Riverside end its season with a 1-1 draw against defending national champions and No. 9-ranked UCSB, was selected by the Galaxy in the MLS draft. Could he man the net for the Galaxy in the near future, rolling with Becks and Landon? 

Only time will tell if we will, indeed, remember Alamo. For now, live it up. Good on ya.