’Cats are electric in the NCAA
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Chico State went from being the fourth best team in the conference to the champion of the West region of the NCAA Championship Tournament. The ’Cats utilized every player in the rotation to the best of their ability, and scoring at a more rapid pace than in the regular season.
During the two games in the CCAA tournament the ’Cats only averaged 64 points. However, in the NCAA’s, they averaged 89.3 which was one of the main reasons why they were able to beat other teams.
The starters were very productive in all three games, but it was the strong contributions from the bench that made all the difference. In the two games prior to the NCAA tournament, the bench only averaged 7.5 points per game leading to the starters being over-used because of the lack of production from the bench.
During the first game against the Western Washington University Vikings, the bench provided 30 of the team’s 96 points. There was no drop-off in production throughout the entire game, and the ‘Cats held the lead throughout the entire second half.
In the second game against the Hawaii Pacific University Sharks, the bench provided 22 points including a 13 point outburst from senior forward Michael Bethea. He hit two 3-pointers and attacked the basket strong, which helped to keep the ‘Cats afloat in a close game.
They then won 77-74. In the final game against the UC San Diego Tritons the bench only scored 13 points, but sophomore forward Justin Briggs provided 10 points, 4 rebounds and a huge block in 21 minutes of play. He was the inside presence the ‘Cats needed, altering shots on defense and using his post moves to score on offense. His play cleared up space for the guards on the perimeter allowing the game to flow easier for the team.
But the story of the tournament was junior forward Isaiah Ellis. After scoring 12.4 points throughout the season, Ellis completely took over the NCAA tournament averaging 21 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, including an outburst of 34 points and 14 rebounds to clinch the West region title for the ’Cats.
If it wasn’t for his production on both sides of the floor, there would be no way the ‘Cats would win the region.
The team has made a complete turnaround in the last few games has no intentions of stopping. If the starters and the bench continue to produce at a high level, it will be a hard team to beat.
Patrick Pace can be reached at [email protected] or @patpacesports on Twitter.