Things keep getting worse before they get better for Chapman College's basketball team and Saturday night, the Panthers had a close and personal encounter with the very rock bottom.
Twenty-four hours after forgetting the rudiments of elementary jump-shooting in Riverside, Chapman accomplished something without precedent in 1985--lose a conference game to Cal Poly Pomona.
That's Cal Poly Pomona as in rebuilding, struggling, undermanned, 0-10 Cal Poly Pomona. The poor, pitiful Broncos, long-term lease-holders of last place in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn.
Well, today Pomona is still in last place. But after 19 straight conference defeats, the Broncos now can say that they, too, have won a CCAA game.
It can just about happen to anybody, the way Chapman is playing these days.
Just when it seemed that the Panthers had reached their lowest ebb by shooting 24.7% in a 26-point loss to UC Riverside, Chapman outdid itself by becoming completely undone in a 63-55 setback to Pomona.
The Panther offense continued in its meltdown mode, shooting 27.3% in the first half against the Broncos before rallying to finish the game at 32% (20 for 62).
And when Chapman wasn't missing the hoop with the basketball, it was usually delivering it into the hands of a Pomona player. The Panthers committed 17 turnovers, including four in five possessions during one of several prolonged scoring droughts.
Chapman trailed by as many as 18 points in the second half to a team that took an overall record of 6-19 into the game. The Panthers (13-11, 4-7 and plunging) made the final score respectable only when the Pomona reserves, obviously excited by the significance of the event, began fouling everyone in sight.
"This is the worst we've played all year, without question," Chapman Coach Kevin Wilson said. "Especially against a team that tried to help us win. They were pushing off under their own basket in the last minute, they were fouling us when they were shooting free throws. They were trying to help us.
"It's not Riverside (a 26-point loss), it's not Dominguez Hills (a 27-point loss)--that tonight was the worst."
And Wilson was only slightly more complimentary of the winners than he was of the losers.
"How can you shoot what we did and still only lose by eight?" Wilson said. "What does that tell you about them? It tells you why they're 0-10.
"George Fisher (the Broncos' first-year coach) is a great guy and they've lost a lot of close games. But late in the game, when you're on somebody else's court, you don't have (Pomona forward) Eddie Brown push off under his own basket, you don't push off after you shoot a free throw, you don't give the other team the ball under their own bucket.
"The way we were shooting from the floor, you want to keep us shooting from there. Instead, we kept going to the free throw line and making up ground."
Fisher attributed the deluge of late fouls to the fact that "we put in all our extra guys. I wanted to let them share in the win. If it had gotten a hair close, like down to 10 points with a minute to go, I would have called timeout."
Fisher also had an opinion or two about Chapman.
"There's a tremendous difference between our program and theirs," he said. "Despite all what we've gone through, our kids have hung together, the intensity level has remained high in practice. They haven't rolled over."
Is that to imply that the Panthers have?
"We're different. That's all I'll say," Fisher said.
Then, referring to Wilson, he added, "I guess every guy has it tough his first time around."
The question now for Wilson and Chapman is this: How can it possibly get any tougher?
CAL POLY POMONA (63)--Young 4, Aparicio 10, O'Brien 13, Fitzgerald 4, Ryan 2, Brown 19, Ellis 1, Tirsell 10.
CHAPMAN (55)--O'Hern 8, Ross 2, Kelly 4, Clark 4, Jones 8, Briggs 5, Weninger 2, Marusich 2, Williams 6, Cato 10, Brennan 4.