SLUGS GRIND OUT WIN IN BATTLE OF "UC" SCHOOLS
SANTA CRUZ, CA—With four games remaining, the Slugs look to ride the momentum of their three game winning streak to conclude the season. They entered today’s contest with a chance to reach a .500 record after undergoing a six game losing skid earlier in the season. Today is also an opportunity for the seniors to leave their legacy out in the court, as it will be their last home in a Slug uniform—senior night—for the few players on the squad.
The Slugs are coming off one of the team’s worst seasons in its school basketball history after undergoing a 4-21 record in 2013-14. A year later, the Slugs are currently 10-11 with a chance to finish the season with the most wins in its program history. Thus, today’s win not only ties a school mark for most victories in a season at 11, but it also gets Santa Cruz over the hurdle of a losing record.
Santa Cruz hosted UC Merced Tuesday (02/10/15) evening in the Slugs last home game of the season. Leading up to today’s contest, UCSC is coming off a 62-59 victory in their last game against Menlo College. The Slugs hope today would be no different as the match tipped off.
Coach DuBois elected to go with F-Creighton, F-Townsend, G-J Ponce, G-Arwine Jr and G-Marlow, whom have served as his anchor at the starting line-up after shuffling between players earlier this season. Despite being a team composed of majority underclassmen, Townsend and Arwine Jr were some of the few seniors who played in today’s game. The opening half was closely contested as both competitors fought hard for 30-26 score in favor of Merced at halftime. However, trailing would not matter for the Slugs as they surged their way to a 70-62 victory over the Bobcats. Biding their fellow seniors farewell and push their winning streak to four.
The game got off to a back and forth start, as Santa Cruz was able to take 6-4 lead on Jared Ponce’s jumper within the opening minutes of the game. However, senior night seemed to be quickly overshadowed by Merced’s convincing performance. The Bobcats took a 26-17 lead with 4:42 remaining, quitting the crowd in what looked to be a bitter ending at Kaiser Permanente Arena. As game looked to be in doubt, the tide would turn after several Ponce lay-ups. UCSC would then cut the lead even further after a pair of Ponce free throws to make it 30-26, with Merced leading at the half.
In spite of the early scare, UCSC was able to cruise in the second half with 44 points scored, nearly doubling their total from the first. Townsend initiated the second half on his three-pointer to diminish the lead even further to 30-29. Fittingly, it was the senior Townsend who would aid the Slugs comeback. Not only did his lay-up give Santa Cruz a 35-37 lead with 15:46 remaining, but his performance would help clinch the game. He finished with 13 points, a game high of 15 rebounds to go along with 3 steals and blocks.
It was the seniors who showed their experience by keeping their composure as the game progressed when things looked out of hand. Arwine Jr contributed with 6 points and 9 rebounds. He also had a key tip-in to stretch the Slugs lead to 49-39 with 12:05 remaining in the second half. It was all smooth sailing from there as Santa Cruz would ease to a 70-62 victory over Merced
A big key to UCSC’s victory was their ability to control the other aspects of the game aside from scoring. Aspects such as: defense, rebounding, ball movement and through overall effort. The Slugs tenacious defense was able to hold Merced to (26-60) from the field for a shooting percentage of 40%. They also bullied their way on the glass, out-rebounding the Bobcats 48-35 total. Some of those rebounds led to 20 second chance points, which could have very well been the difference today. The Slugs also displayed their excellent ball movement; gaining 16 assists on 28 made field goals, nine more assist than Merced accumulated—a pretty remarkable stat.
Today’s victory against UC Merced brings the Slugs to an 11-11 record, and pushes their winning streak to four. The 11 wins is a tie for the most triumphs in program history; a nice way to conclude senior night for the few players who were a part of last season’s misfortune. UCSC’s next game will come against Occidental, as the Slugs take to the road their record and hope to set a new one for most wins in a season. It won’t come easy as the Slugs will head down to Southern California before heading up to Texas for two more games to wrap up the season. A challenge the Slugs will certainly be eager to meet.
By Javier Gutierrez (UC Santa Cruz, 2015)
*All stats acquired from Goslugs.com