Toros Take Aim at Riverside in Early Showdown

Times Staff Writer

Coach Dave Yanai at Cal State Dominguez Hills prefers to play down the importance of one game.

But there’s no way his UC Riverside counterpart, Dave Masi, would beat around the bush about tonight’s 8:05 California Collegiate Athletic Assn. tip-off between the two schools in the Toro gymnasium.

“No doubt about it, this is an early-season showdown,” Masi said.

Hard to believe, you say, particularly since little old Division II Riverside (12-2) drew national attention a few weeks back with a shocking 110-92 victory over second-ranked Division I powerhouse Iowa while the Toros were losing to Cal State Hayward and Cal Lutheran.


Even more difficult to consider because Dominguez Hills (9-5) spent most of its preseason schedule spinning its wheels while Riverside was marching to second place in national rankings.

Besides, says Yanai, this is only the second CCAA contest for both 1-0 clubs. “I don’t put much importance on this game over any other. This is just one of 13 more,” he said.

Still, if Dominguez Hills wants to make good on the contender status Yanai predicted before the season, this is the night to make a statement to the other seven teams in the conference.

A Toro victory, says Masi, would prove what he has thought for some time.

“There are five or six teams that can win this conference,” he said. “Dominguez Hills is one.”

Masi’s team is one of his own picks too. Riverside brings an eight-game winning streak into the contest and on paper has a leg up on its preseason co-favorite, defending champion Cal State Bakersfield, which was upset in its opener last week by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Masi says he is uneasy about tonight’s game, but Yanai could see only one reason for Masi’s concern: “This game may be more important for them since it is a road game.”

Masi pointed to other areas of concern: “Dominguez Hills is peaking at the right time. I saw them play last Saturday and they looked excellent.”

“We are a long way from (peaking),” Yanai responded.

Injuries may play a part in the game. Riverside is expected to be without starting forward Jimmy Shorters (broken rib) and sixth man Chris Ceballos (bone chip in knuckle). Each has missed four games. Shorters played his freshman year at Dominguez Hills in the 1983-84 season. Also missing for the last four contests has been Toro starting forward Kenyatta Kalisana (knee injury). Yanai said Kalisana is expected to play.

Masi says his game plan may change if either of his players can’t play.

“I’m very concerned,” he said.

This could be the biggest game in the last two seasons for Dominguez Hills. The Toros, who lost both times to Riverside last year, nevertheless finished the season winning seven of their last 10 CCAA games and narrowly missed a postseason conference tournament berth.

With three of five starters back, the Toros figure to make a run for one of those four tournament spots. Despite stumbling early in the season, Dominguez Hills brings a four-game winning streak into tonight’s game. The Toros have won nine of their last 12 games.

“We have had a little more level play early in the year,” Yanai said. “I’m pleased with the play right now. This certainly is the right time (to gel).”

Riverside leads the CCAA in scoring, averaging 96 points a game. Dominguez Hills is the top defensive team, allowing 63 a contest.

“We handle the transition game well,” Yanai said, “but we function at a slower pace--not a slow pace, but maybe a score like in the 70s.”

Dominguez Hills will need a big night from its All-American candidate, senior center Anthony Blackmon. Blackmon, who was voted the CCAA’s Player of the Week after an 82-71 victory last Friday over Chapman College, has averaged 21 points and nine rebounds a game in his last seven outings. The 6-7 post has averaged three assists during the four-game winning streak.

Dominguez Hills will be at Cal Poly Pomona on Saturday night at 8:05. Women’s games precede both contests at 5:45 tonight and Saturday.