Consistent defense and free throws – crucial for a win

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Karina Cope

The tip-off begins the game between Chico State and Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Nicolas Espino

     Second-chance opportunities prove to be the difference as junior Malik Duffy led the Chico State men’s basketball team to an 85-76 victory over the Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros on Thursday night. 

     Duffy got off to a hot start and was perfect from the free-throw line in his 25-point night. The forward out of Jesuit High School showed his ability to score at will as he led the way for the Wildcats. Duffy had help from guard, Isaiah Brooks and the team’s leading scorer on the season, Kevin Warren. Brooks led the team with seven assists and Warren made huge plays down the stretch to help pull out the win. 

     One of the biggest plays of the night came from Warren with less than five minutes left to play in regulation. With the Wildcats down by three, they were able to make a stop, get down the floor and move the ball well to find Warren on the wing for a strong drive and finish. Warren was fouled on the drive, knocked down his free-throw to complete the three-point play and tied the game. 

     In addition to second-chance opportunities, free throws were a crucial factor in Chico State’s big win. The Wildcats shot over 78-percent from the stripe, going 15 for 19, while their opponents shot 42-percent from the line, going just 8 for 19. Having the ability to make free throws late in games does not come as a surprise as this is an area the Wildcats work on continuously throughout their week. 

     “We shoot free throws everyday after practice. We shoot 20 to 25 and we have to make a certain percent to be able to move on,” Duffy said.

Nicolas Espino
Kevin Warren (11) attacks the Toro defenders and finishes strong. This big three-point play tied up the game for the Wildcats and was the turning point in the 85-76 victory over the Torors.

     Defense was another area of discipline that showed up for the Wildcats. Duffy, Warren and Brooks mentioned that when the team plays well defensively it makes a large difference on the outcome of the game. 

     “That’s (defense) going to be the game changer for the rest of our season. We are going to come out every game, 40 minutes of defense,” Duffy said. 

     Upon returning from the first half of play, the Wildcats had a nine-point lead. However, the Toros were able to tie it up just half-way into the second half. Shortly after the Toros tied the game, the Wildcats’ defense stepped up their play. Despite trading buckets early on, they were able to come up with several stops down the stretch. 

     One of the defining moments in the game, and perhaps the game winning play, came off a big defensive block from forward Justin Briggs. With just over one minute to play and the Toros still within reach, Briggs fled down the lane to chase down an opponent driving to the paint. The opponent had no chance as Briggs ferociously pinned the driving players shot against the backboard.

     The Wildcats look to continue their unselfish play and improve to 15-3 overall as they take on Cal State Los Angeles in Acker Gym on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

 

Nicolas Espino can be reached at [email protected] or @GuyNeeks on Twitter.