A game for the Ages

Ivan Yeo

Those of you that happened to be at the Cal State Northridge men’s basketball game against Cal Redlands last Wednesday got quite a treat. The Matadors came out firing and dunking early and often, almost like they were playing in their driveway, and the end result was and unthinkable 159-97 (that’s right folks, 159-97) thumping of Redlands.

If you want to know how unbelievable Wednesday’s game was, here are a few facts; CSUN scored 73 points, all by the first half and not only shattered its highest single-game point total, which was 123 against U.S. International on Dec. 28, 1991, its second year in NCAA Division I, they annihilated it, and when they actually broke the record, there was still 8:21 left in the game. The point totals of two Matador reserves, Keith Everage and Lawrence Tyson, actually out-numbered the amount of minutes they played. Everage scored 12 points in 10 minutes and Tyson had nine points in just seven minutes of play.

Now a lot of you guys out there are asking how CSUN could pile up so many points in one game (and let’s face it, most of us would have trouble trying to score that many points playing NBA 2K7 or NBA Live 07, etc.), Well, those of you that were at the Matadome Wednesday night saw that Redlands constantly utilize the full-court press against CSUN, which when broken, allowed the Matadors to get easy fast-break points. CSUN’s ability to break Redlands’ press allowed them to turn the game into its own personal slam-dunk contest (I proclaim Jonathan Heard the winner after throwing down a wicked one-hander over a Redlands defender, who was actually able to jump as high as Heard, but still could not prevent himself from being posterized, and if you don’t believe me, ask one of the people sitting in the “Red Rally” section, who was so excited, he actually ended up on the court himself.).

Of course, those of you who are still surprised CSUN scored this many points shouldn’t be. Redlands, an NCAA Division III school that competes in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, is a high scoring team that averaged 113 points last season. Redlands scored 154 points against Golden State Baptist last season and scored 172 points in a game two seasons ago. Redlands attempted 1,172 three-pointers last season and took 61 against CSUN on Wednesday night, making 16 of them. Redlands made 509 of those 1,712 three’s they took last season.

On defense, Redlands will get in your face and press you full-court the entire game, which results in a lot of points but also a lot of turnovers for both teams (Redlands had 36 turnovers Wednesday night and CSUN had 28). Redlands’ plan is to get its opponents caught up in its high-octane style of play with the hope that they’ll tire out toward the end of games. Redlands lost a game to Cal Lutheran in January of 2005 by a score of 133-132 in overtime. Redlands “press-n-shoot” style was featured in a column by Los Angeles Times Columnist Bill Plaschke during the 2004-2005 season.

Several Community Colleges in California have adopted the same system and have gotten great results. Moorpark College started using the press-n-shoot system in 2003-2004 (which was my last year as sports editor of the Moorpark College newspaper) and struggled at first, but have since thrived, advancing to the Southern California regional finals of the state playoffs the last two seasons. Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga has also adopted the same philosophies and have been to the playoffs three straight years because of it.

Now there is an NCAA Division I school attempting a similar style of play, and they’re not too far away from here. This past off-season, Pepperdine University hired Vance Wahlberg, who had gone 133-11 in his three years as head coach at Fresno City College, including a state championship run in 2005 to turn around the fortunes of its struggling program. Wahlberg’s philosophies are no different from that of Redlands or Moorpark and Chaffey College; in-your-face full-court pressure defense for 40 minutes and on offense, score, score and score some more, mostly from the three-point line. Wahlberg’s Fresno City College teams averaged 104 points in his three years as head coach and so far, Pepperdine has put up some numbers. The Waves scored over 100 points in its two exhibition games, then in its season opener against 17th ranked Washington on Nov. 12, erased a 27-point deficit midway through the second half and ended up losing 99-91. Pepperdine picked up Wahlberg’s first Division I victory on Nov. 14 by hitting 21 three-pointers against Nicholls State, winning 98-83.

Ironically, the Matadors took the court this past Saturday afternoon against those same Pepperdine Waves at the Matadome.