Monday, January 05, 2009

A New Power is Rising in the West

Well, maybe that's a little presumptuous. Don't look now, but the UC Riverside Highlanders are 2-0 and atop the Big West conference (along with Long Beach State). Not only that, but they actually have the best record in the conference when you combine conference and non-conference play, so this may not be a total fluke.

Last night they beat UC Santa Barbara 71-69, overcoming a twelve point deficit in the second half. UCSB was picked second in the conference by the media before the season started. Better yet, they've won their two conference games with diverging styles. In the conference opener, they scored 91 points against Cal Poly SLO, while last night they held UCSB to only four second half baskets. A few two many fouls led to lots of Gauchos on the free throw line, and the Highlanders survived a last second would-be game winning three pointer that came a hair too late. But 2-0 is 2-0, and hopefully a good start (they're 9-4 overall) will create a buzz on campus that brings people out to the Student Rec Center.

When I was at UCR, we were Division II, and there was virtually no interest in athletics from the general student body. I knew a few guys on the baseball team, one of whom was all over the record books by the time we graduated, but otherwise, I would have barely known that we had a baseball team. In 1995, there was finally some excitement when the basketball team rolled through the D2 tournament to reach the nationally televised championship game. I actually remember bars around campus playing that game on the radio, and people actually going to bars to listen to it. The excitement died when the Highlanders couldn't hang onto a 20+ point lead, and lost to Satan (bruce pearl) and Southern Indiana. But the University is twice the size it was when I was a student, and a positive start could help fill the place up a bit.

It's nice to have my three favorite teams playing interesting basketball this season, as opposed to one for the last couple seasons.

1 comment:

Zoomy575M said...

Hello there, I run a Long Beach sports website and would love to link up with your site and talk about Big West ball. E-mail me at Thanks!