Cal State Fullerton men’s basketball coach Dedrique Taylor had plenty of reasons to celebrate his team’s Big West Conference victory over visiting UC Irvine on Saturday.
Not only was it Taylor’s career 100th victory, but it came after his team was down by 11 points in the second half of a game the Titans almost had to have after losing to the two-time defending regular-season champion Anteaters a night earlier
“I don’t know if it actually gives the victory any more meaning from that standpoint,” he said of the 67-64 win Saturday. “What does give it meaning, it says a lot about our guys, it says a lot about what we’re about and what can happen if you compete and you give yourself an opportunity to do what’s best for each other.
“We were focused on playing hard and playing together. And I thought for 40 minutes, that group, they showed that. Not only the guys on the floor, but the guys off the floor in terms of the guys (on the bench) – they were talking, in timeouts. It was a group effort.”
Taylor’s voice over the telephone suddenly became more animated while explaining the excitement during timeouts.
“It wasn’t like I was the only one talking, everybody was in there trying to be productive,” Taylor said. “So those are the things that I see that were important in that situation.”
Taylor talked about the overall significance of a victory like this, under the circumstances of a unique season in which the Titans have twice had to pause their program because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Including COVID-19 issues with other teams, Cal State Fullerton has lost eight of its 20 scheduled conference games to cancellation.
“It was monumental for a lot of different reasons,” Taylor said. “For the seeding and all of that stuff, it’s important. But I think for a group of guys that have been through what this group has been through, to endure it and find a way to still be successful, I think is way more important than anything.”
The seeding Taylor spoke of is centered on the Big West postseason tournament that will take place March 9-13 in a bubble atmosphere at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Since teams will have played a different amount of games because of COVID-19 cancellations, this season’s tournament seeding will go by winning percentage.
Cal State Fullerton (6-7, 5-7) currently sits in the eighth spot in the standings. But the Titans are off this week and finish the regular season March 5-6 at UC San Diego, a conference newcomer that can’t play in the postseason tournament until 2025, so those games won’t count in the Big West standings.
However, other teams have anywhere from two to four conference games remaining, which means the Titans could move in the standings without playing anymore conference games that count.
No fans at tournaments
The Big West on Monday announced no fans will be allowed to attend the postseason tournaments in Las Vegas because of the pandemic. That includes family members of players and guests of team personnel.
“When we began the season, the Big West board of directors were united in the view that mitigating risk and protecting the welfare of our student-athletes and coaches were paramount,” Howard Gillman, chairman of the Big West board and Chancellor at UC Irvine, said in a statement.
“In an environment with 19 teams in action, where one positive test can potentially eliminate several teams and end their dream of competing for a championship, the reluctant decision to play without fans was necessary to maintain the focus on health and safety.”
This and that
After starting the conference season 10-0, the Long Beach State women have lost four consecutive Big West games. They dropped two at home to UC Davis on Feb. 12-13 and lost twice last week at Cal Poly. The Beach (11-5, 10-4) host Hawaii on Friday and Saturday and finish the regular season March 5-6 with games at rival UC Irvine (11-6, 9-2). The Anteaters are second in the conference behind UC Davis (7-1, 6-0). …
The CSUN men came through with a huge comeback victory Saturday when, down by 23 points in the first half, the Matadors (8-9, 4-6) emerged with an 88-80 overtime victory over visiting Hawaii. CSUN junior guard Darius Brown II had a triple-double – 18 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists – to go with five steals and a block in 42 minutes. Brown, out of Pasadena High, was named conference Player of the Week. …
The UC Riverside men will play a huge series Friday and Saturday when the third-place Highlanders (10-6, 5-3) host first-place UC Santa Barbara (16-3, 10-2).