Two years ago, guard Jake Hodges transfered out of U.S. International to play basketball elsewhere. He departed, figuring Gulls Coach Gary Zarecky would never give him enough playing time.
So where did Hodges, a 6-foot-3 senior from Philadelphia, decide to walk on? Zarecky’s alma mater, Cal State Chico.
Saturday, Hodges got enough playing time to help lead the Division II Wildcats to a 114-104 upset of Zarecky’s Gulls in front of 172 at Golden Hall. The victory for Chico (4-2) was its first against a Division I team this season.
And as Hodges was pouring in 21 points in 34 minutes, USIU was dropping to 1-6 and 0-2 at home. Hodges couldn’t have been more satisfied.
“I left here because I didn’t think I would get enough playing time,” Hodges said. “So I worked hard all summer just to come down here and win a game.”
After the Gulls jumped to a 5-0 lead, Hodges scored the Wildcats’ first two points of the game on a pair of free throws. He finished 11 for 13 from the free-throw line. But down the stretch he twisted the knife in USIU’s back with two slam dunks, the second of which came after the Gulls’ O.J. Bonner led Hodges perfectly with an overthrown in-bounds pass.
Hodges sprinted under the errant pass, dribbled once, then went up for a thundering one-hand jam that gave Chico a game-clinching 109-100 lead with 48 seconds left.
This was a humiliating loss for Zarecky, as the Gulls led the first 7:36 of the game before the two teams battled to a 47-47 tie at halftime. Chico, which shot 72% from the field in the second half, went on a 7-0 run to lead 54-49 early in the second half. USIU came back and pulled ahead, 72-69, on a layup by Mike Sterner at 10:19. But 11 seconds later, Pat Condon hit a three-pointer to tie it and the Gulls faded after that.
“I’ve got no cliches for this,” an angered Zarecky said. “We beat ourselves. It’s a devastating defeat for this ballclub. I’ve never been here before. I’m in pain.
“I still believe this team’s going to win. But we’ve got to re-assess our individual talent. When you get to this point, with the team playing as bad as it is, you have to take a look at the personnel or the system.”
USIU shot 47% from the field and 75 of its points came from two players: senior guard Kevin Bradshaw, who finished with a game-high 40, and forward Isaac Brown, who had 35. Brown, a 6-4 sophomore from New York, had the best night of his career, hitting 15 of 22 shots from the floor and finishing with 15 rebounds in 30 minutes.
Bradshaw, who entered the game averaging 31.2 points a game, had a cold shooting night. But he was often triple-teamed when he had the ball, as he finished 16 for 33 from the field.
No other USIU player finished in double figures and the Gulls got only 10 points out of the six players who came off the bench. USIU also had 28 turnovers.