Chico State Men’s Basketball triumphs in home debut


Javier Hernandez

Guard Kevin Warren throwing it down during a fast-break.

The Wildcats made their long-awaited return to Acker Gym after 621 days.

“The guys love playing here. They were excited,” head coach Greg Clink said. “We love the fact we had fans back in Acker to watch us play.” 

During the 2019-2020 season, the Wildcats had a home record of 12-3. 

A successful road trip in Cal Poly Pomona led to the Wildcats coming home with an undefeated record. 

The Wildcats’ performance propelled them to No. 19 in Division 2 standings and No. 2 in the western region.

The Wildcats hosted the Academy of Art Urban Knights, which also came into the game undefeated. 

The Wildcats starting lineup for their match up against the Academy of Art on Nov. 17.

The Wildcats came out victorious, 71-61, after a strong defensive game. They held the Urban Knights to 38% shooting from the field and 22% from the 3-point line.

As the Wildcats walked out to do their pre-game warmups, the Chico crowd erupted chanting, “Let’s go Chico!” 

“Today I had butterflies in my stomach,” senior forward Malik Duffy said. “I was grateful to get back on the court with this team.”

The game started off slow for both teams, but Duffy landed the Wildcats’ first 3-point shot.

Those were the Wildcats’ first points in Acker Gym since their California Collegiate Athletic Association playoff win over Stanislaus State on March 3, 2019.

The early story for the Wildcats was foul trouble. Guards Joshua Hamilton and Kevin Warren both committed early fouls, which affected their aggressiveness on defense.

“I knew I had to play with my feet, not my hands,” Warren said. 

The Wildcats pulled ahead by 9 points, but the Urban Knights kept answering back. 

Going into halftime, the Wildcats held a two-possession lead, with the score 41-35. 

During the opening minutes of the second half, the Wildcats had to adjust their lineups accordingly because of Warren’s and Hamilton’s three first-half fouls.

“The bench needed to step up,” Clink said. “Evan Oliver, Josh Curls, and Colby Orr all had good stints.”

The men’s basketball coaches watching their squad during the game.

Around the 15-minute mark of the second half, the Wildcats led by 9 . Things were looking good, but the Wildcats couldn’t build on the led for about nine minutes, until Warren drained a free throw.

The good thing for the Wildcats during this nine-minute stretch is that their defense did its part and held the Urban Nights to just two points.

With four minutes remaining, the Urban Knights cut the lead to 3. But a 3-pointer from Duffy and a steal that led to a dunk by Warren propelled the Wildcats to an 8-point lead. 

This deficit accompanied by the stingy Wildcat defense was too much to overcome for the Urban Nights. 

“Our defense was good. We were getting stops and rebounding well,” Duffy said.

The Wildcats remain undefeated with a 3-0 record.

Guard Joshua Curls setting up the Wildcats’ play.

“There is potential for this team to be really special,” guard Isaiah Brooks said. “This game tested us and it is time to just keep building.”

The Wildcats return to Acker as they host the Pacific Union Pioneers on Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.

This will be their last non-conference game as they head on the road for their first three CCAA conference games. 

They will make their CCAA home debut against the Sonoma State Seawolves on Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. 

Javier Hernandez can be contacted at [email protected] or @jhm1226 on Twitter.