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The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Men’s basketball team break starting record

The 2014 men's basketball team matched the 1941 Wildcats' best start of 14-4. Photo courtesy of Chico State.

After a convincing 71-57 defeat over San Francisco State on Feb. 1, the Chico State men’s basketball team repeated history, playing its best start since 1941.

The Wildcats tied its best starting record through 18 games by going 14-4. For the 2014 Wildcats, 10 of those wins came from within the California Collegiate Athletic Association. Outside of the conference, the ’Cats are undefeated. Now the Wildcats are 17-5 overall, 13-5 in conference play and sit in third place in the CCAA Division II standings.

The team puts the pressure on opponents, having outscored them 1,670 to 1,405 points so far and averaging a double-digit lead each game.

“We’re all happy about what we’ve been able to accomplish so far but we still think we could have done better,” said Jordan Semple, junior forward. “We let a few games slip away, but we’re more focused on finishing the season well.”

Semple leads the team in field goal percentage at 57.9 percent, caught 174 rebounds through 22 games and was named CCAA men’s basketball player of the week from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2. Semple, with a strong start under his belt, looks forward to taking care of business at the end of the season.

“We just need to do well in the conference tournament,” he said. “We made the NCAA tournament the past two years so I’m confident we can make it again this year. We’re just trying to win as many games as we can.”

The Wildcats played in the CCAA championship game in the past two seasons and lost both games. The ’Cats were 10-8 for the first 18 games of last season and weren’t nearly as successful in 2012. The team looks forward to competing and earning their way back to the CCAA championship game, but expects very different results.

The team chemistry between the players is outstanding this season. It has allowed the ’Cats to get excited to play each game. This excitement carries over to the coaching staff, as head coach Greg Clink hopes to keep the momentum going.

“We have had contributions from a variety of guys,” Clink said. “Our four seniors have been huge and very consistent. Our players coming off the bench have also been great.”

The leadership has been particularly strong among the seniors this season. Rashad Parker, Giordano Estrada, Amir Carraway and Sean Park keep the team focused on winning and getting better every day. Park, a senior guard, leads the team by averaging almost 15 points per game. Scoring is not, however, his only role on the team. He serves as a great role model for the younger players to look up to.

“I respect the freshman and younger guys for buying into the program and all the work they’ve put in,” Park said. “Most of our starters are seniors, but once the sophomores and freshmen get more experience and when it is their time they will be very good.”

Although the team got off to a great start, winning seven of their first eight games, January proved to be a bit of a challenge for the Wildcats. The team dropped three games, including a two-game skid in the middle of the month. One of their few home losses came during this stretch as well.

“We have had a couple games that we felt we should have won, but that happens most seasons,” Clink said.

There’s always games that you should have won, but lost, and games where you actually won, but probably didn’t play as well as you thought you should have, Clink said.

Clink motivates the ’Cats by helping them play to their true potential when the times get tough.

“Coach Clink helped us realize that those losses weren’t going to be the end of us,” Park said. “You know, two games out of all the ones we play during the season is nothing. He has helped us get better every day.”

The Wildcats have gone 3-1 since, losing a close game to UC San Diego in the final seconds but quickly rebounding by winning an overtime thriller over Cal State San Bernardino. The ’Cats are still undefeated outside of CCAA play.

Playing at home seems to be a strength for the Wildcats. The team has only lost two games while playing in Acker Gym. This should provide great motivation for students to come out and support the team as it puts together one of their best years in history. Park reminds Wildcat fans how special it is to play in Acker Gym.

“A lot of people don’t know, but Acker is one of the best venues in the CCAA,” Park said. “Seeing all of our fans show up, compared to all the other team’s stands, gives us a lot more motivation.”

Lee Masten can be reached at [email protected] or @lee23masten on Twitter.

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