Another long road trip came to a miserable end here Saturday night for Cal State Dominguez Hills.
The Toros, playing their second away game in a span of 24 hours, fell to Cal State Bakersfield, 69-61, in a California Collegiate Athletic Conference game at the Civic Auditorium, then returned to their motel to think about the loss. They weren't scheduled to leave for home until sometime this morning.
That wasn't the favorite plan for many of the players, who privately expressed a desire before the game to hit Interstate 5 right after it was over.
It's little wonder they wanted to get back to Carson. Dominguez Hills, which lost Friday night at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 54-51, has yet to win a game in 1988 and is 1-8 for the season when it is not at home.
In fact, the Toros are slipping fast, after going into CCAA play with a 6-6 mark. They have lost five straight games, three in conference play and now limp home with a 6-9 mark. Worse, the Toros are 0-3 in conference play.
Bakersfield, on the other hand, is rising like a rocket. After a 3-5 start, the Roadrunners have recovered to 11-5 on the strength of an eight-game winning streak. The team is 3-0 in CCAA play. Friday night the Roadrunners beat Chapman, 83-78. A week ago Dominguez Hills opened CCAA play at Chapman and lost, 74-62.
So where does that leave the Toros?
"They're a good team and (Dave Yanai) is a fine coach," said Bakersfield Coach Pat Douglass.
Despite the losses, Yanai got good performances from his team on both nights of this trip, something he hasn't seen much of away from home since a 71-67 victory at San Francisco State in early December.
Both losses, however, had to hurt the team's confidence, a key aspect in the scheme of things for Yanai.
At San Luis Obispo, the Toros trailed by only a point until the final 14 seconds. The key there: The team failed to get a field goal in the final 7:14 of the game; then 6-foot-8 Poly center Darren Masingale, a 50% free-throw shooter, calmly sank both ends of a one-and-one to ice the game.
The bonus situations returned to haunt Dominguez Hills again Saturday. Bakersfield converted 9 of 11.
The Roadrunners needed them all too, thanks to the relentless play of Toro guard Derrick Clark.
"Derrick played so hard. He makes people play you," Yanai said.
Center Anthony Blackmon, who led all scorers with 22 points and 8 rebounds, after the game experienced Yanai's wrath in the locker room. Although his play at times looked spectacular to the 1,800 fans in attendance, Blackmon has yet to give Yanai the complete effort he is looking for.
"The bottom line is, he's the only returning player back, and he's not giving us what we want," Yanai said.
When asked if he was looking forward to getting back home, Yanai grinned and said simply: "Oh yes."
Clark, who controls the offense, finished with 14 points and several key steals.
Bakersfield made 7 of its first 8 field goal attempts to forge an 18-6 lead with only 8 1/2 minutes gone in the game. The hot shooting continued; the Roadrunners held a 26-16 lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half after hitting 11 of their first 13.
But that's when the Toros showed some moxie. Instead of folding, which they have during the year in brief periods of play that usually cost them games, Dominguez Hills fought back.
With Blackmon scoring 14 of the team's first 16 points, Dominguez Hills got within four points just before the half.
Bakersfield regained its 10-point cushion, but then Dominguez Hills ran off a 10-1 spurt to trail by only one point, 39-38, with 15:37 left.
Bakersfield built leads of as many as five points from that point on and in the final four minutes broke the game open,62-53, on a free throw by Troy Price.