Last Game Puts Big Smile on the Face of Toros Coach
An off-hand challenge from Coach Dave Yanai will probably dominate the remainder of the season for the Cal State Dominguez Hills men’s basketball team, which will be at home against Cal State Hayward in a non-conference game tonight at 7:30.
Yanai clearly liked what he saw Tuesday as the Toros built a 20-point halftime lead and cruised to a 77-60 victory at Azusa Pacific.
But after the contest, Yanai criticized his players for a seesaw start, which has produced a mediocre 4-3 record.
Thought to have one its finest teams, Dominguez Hills dropped its first two games, then won three straight. But a 66-63 overtime loss at Cal Lutheran last Saturday seemed to upset Yanai.
After the victory over Azusa Pacific (5-5), an NAIA school, Yanai was asked to compare the quality of play in the loss at Cal Lutheran with the stellar action turned in against the Cougars.
Said the 12th-year coach, “We played a little more like I expected us to tonight. Saturday we did not do much of anything well.”
Then came the challenge. Yanai said: “I think we should be 7-0. I feel strongly that our kids can step up and play these kinds of games.”
In light of his preseason statements about bringing the team along as the year progressed, Yanai was asked if he thought the Toros were ahead or behind his time line.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said. “I’m not real pleased with our play. We are not consistent.”
But would he rate the team ahead or behind the pace he wanted? Yanai shot back: “I am not pleased.”
Judging by that response, the Toros have a lot of atoning to do with their coach tonight against the 1-7 Pioneers. And things won’t get any easier next week when Dominguez Hills opens against Central Washington (8-4) in the Puget Sound Tournament in Tacoma, which Yanai said will be difficult.
The Toros’ three losses have been by three points or less each and two games went into overtime.
Yanai is a stickler for character in a team and so far this season the Toros have shown character only in spots. The team seems to be frustrated by zone defenses, although it has shown sign of penetrating them recently.
But a big problem has been the ability to hold a lead in crucial situations. In a 69-67 double overtime loss to NAIA power Biola University, the Toros held a 14-point second-half lead and threw it away.
Against Cal Lutheran, Dominguez Hills jumped out to a 20-5 lead, then went cold shooting in the second half. The team made just six field goals.
Against Azusa Pacific, the field-goal percentage of 46% reflected the fact that a majority of the shots are coming from outside. Against Azusa Pacific, however, Dominguez Hills shot 69.4%.
When the shooting goes cold, as it did in the second half against the zone defense of Howard University (a 51-48 loss), then the team struggles.
With 6-7 senior center Anthony Blackmon and brawny 6-4 junior forward Brian Johnson, the Toros would appear to have muscle. But both prefer the outside shot.
That has left the bulk of the inside work on the shoulders of forwards Kenyatta Kalisana and Sergio Bozart, who responded well against Azusa Pacific with several back-door and fast-break layups.
Blackmon offers Dominguez Hills an added option when the opposition centers on him. When double-teamed, which is becoming more frequent, Blackmon has been slowed. But that frees other players and several responded with layups against Azusa Pacific. Bozart had 16 points, including 12 of the first 16 points scored in the game.
By relying on outside shooting to carry the team, the pressure has fallen in the lap of sophomore guard Robert Barksdale. Barksdale has shown flashes of the ball-handling talent that many believe will make him the premier player in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. by the time he is a senior. He can also make or break the team with his 15-foot jumper. Entering the Azusa Pacific game, Barksdale was shooting a dismal 28% (18 for 64) from the field. But he responded with a school-record 10 for 10 from the field and a career high of 23 points.
And, finally, Yanai, who had hoped to use an 8-man rotation, has been a man short since freshman power forward Marty Ward quit the team a month ago. Junior forward Kevin Shaw is seeing more playing time as the eighth man.
The victory at Azusa Pacific was the 170th in Yanai’s career at Dominguez Hills. Frankly, he thought he would reach that milestone faster this season. If the Toros respond to his challenge, he will probably see a lot more wins very soon.