Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Other Other Team In Town

My first sports radio job of any sort was one I created myself, calling UCSD basketball games on student radio station KSDT.  For five years I followed the Tritons through their highs and lows, including a pair of D-III tourney appearances, before eventually (my parents would say, FINALLY) graduating and moving on to other things.  In the 13 years that followed I saw UCSD play SDSU twice at Cox Arena, but had never ventured back to the old stomping grounds in La Jolla.  That streak came to an end this weekend, as the Prodigal Triton came home to check out his old school and their new hopes of increasing their athletic profile in San Diego.  I even brought the wife's digital camera along to document the moment.  

The first thing you will see when you visit UCSD--regardless of what part of campus you visit--is construction.  Mushrooms grow slower than this place.  I was confused when I turned into a parking lot I once knew very well, only to find 5-7 new buildings surrounding it.  Cranes, temporary fencing and scaffolding are as familiar parts of the UC San Diego landscape as the Sun God.  

After negotiating the maze of new buildings, I made my way to RIMAC, the beautiful athletic center located in the western part of campus.  For students, this is 24 Hour Fitness on steroids, with immense workout areas, hardcourts and more.  For visitors, RIMAC's arena reminds you of the Jenny Craig Pavilion in terms of its layout and cozy feel.  The Tritons were D-III when I was on campus but have since moved to Division II, with some scholarships to offer, a stepping stone on the path to D-I status.  They play in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, or PCAA, battling CSU's up and down the coast.  On Saturday, PCAA front-running Cal State University San Bernadino came to town, looking to hold down the cold shooting hosts.   

The Tritons are coached by Chris Carlson, a Helix grad who came to UCSD via Ben Howland's coaching staff at UCLA.  The influence is unmistakable.  UC San Diego's team is nowhere near as physically gifted as their average opponent, but they are disciplined and methodical, and use solid half court offensive sets to generate their offense.  CSUSB was faster, quicker, stronger and bigger, but UCSD was outhustling them and grabbing the loose balls, building a 4-point lead at halftime in large part thanks to an 11-rebound advantage.  

In the second half CSUSB made a predictable run and it looked like the game might get away from UCSD.  Enter Kelvin Kim, the 5'10" senior point guard who was cold from the field but clutch from the line.  He hit two critical free throws to tie the game, and after a Shane Poppen tip-in gave UCSD the lead, Kim hit the clinching three-pointer from the top of the key, after weaving through a series of backscreens.  Kim finished just 4 of 13 from the field but had 15 points as the Tritions beat CSUSD 69-63.  

The crowd was small but hardy, and I was told by several members of the Athletic Department that next Friday's Spirit Night is likely to set a RIMAC attendance record.  I looked forward to at least a two-line writeup this morning in the paper but got nothing except a box score, and a brief mention of the women's team suffering their first conference loss of the year (the women's team came into last night 15-0 in the CCAA).  

UCSD would like more people to know about their teams and programs, and I would like to help.  Here at 619 Sports we are going to start producing a weekly show highlighting UCSD sports, the student athletes, and what's happening at the most under-reported campus in San Diego.  It's the least I can do for the alma mater!  The show will run on for the meantime, but we are hoping to move it onto terrestrial radio at some point in the summer or fall.    In the meantime I am looking forward to spending more time on my old campus and helping to bring you some of the stories from La Jolla!

  • Also last night...watched the Wyoming/SDSU game when I got home.  The Cowboys are not the equal of SDSU and the final outcome was rarely in doubt.  However, I was less than impressed with the Aztecs' performance last night.  Outside of Billy White's spring-loaded brilliance underneath, with a 12 for 12 shooting night that was comprised entirely of dunks and layups, the Aztecs' offense was spotty at best.  Kyle Spain and Lorrenzo Wade were forcing their shots more often than not, and the outside shooting was abysmal, led by DJ Gay's 0-7 effort.  On the plus side Tim Shelton had an effective night and Richie Williams was solid as usual.  I am still hopeful for SDSU's chances in the Mountain West but agree with some observers that the Aztecs have yet to play their best game, and we're getting pretty late in the season.  Hopefully a solid week will bring better health and fortune to SDSU, because next Saturday's game at New Mexico is looming pretty large as far as their hopes of taking the MWC regular season title.  
  • If it wasn't for Dwight Howard the NBA All-Star Saturday Night would have been a total yawner.  The Haier Shooting Stars was really, really boring.  Seeing Bill Laimbeer in an oversized jersey just isn't doing it for me.  The 3-point shootout was a clankfest.  Honestly, you get out of it what you put in...Daequan Cook, Jason Kapono, Rashard Lewis and Mike Bibby aren't exactly the bright lights of the NBA.  And the dunk contest seemed flat to me, except for Dwight Howard's two megadunks, the 12-foot rim and the off-the-side-of-the-backboard thunder jam.  Of course Nate Robinson won the fan vote by dunking over Howard, but if Dwight doesn't agree to play 7-foot prop, little Nate's just probably failing at some between-the-legs dunk 6 or 20 times and Howard wins going away.  And of course, the biggest moment of the dunk contest was actually on the sideline, when LeBron James announced he would participate next year.  Hopefully King James will lure Howard back into the contest, he seemed pretty disappointed not to have won.  
  • I will probably watch at least part of the NBA All-Star Game today, which I would rank a distant 2nd behind the MLB All-Star Game, but well ahead of the other sports.  At least the NBA game gives you some spectacular highlights for the first couple of hours, and then, as long as the game is close, the superstars start D'ing up in the 4th quarter and the game gets good.  That's what I'm hoping for tonight.  Now, off to the gym before the action starts! 
  • I'll be back tomorrow with more weekend reaction along with the first re-installment of the High Fidelity Top 5.  '80s SYNTH BANDS is the category.  I will unveil my first choice tomorrow morning (if you heard my last XTRA show it will be familiar to you) and then take your comments and post a reader pick later in the day!

1 comment:

  1. "....but agree with some observers that the Aztecs have yet to play their best game, and we're getting pretty late in the season."

    You've been reading Aztectalk too much! (Even though it is an astute assesment.)