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A More Temperate Gibbs Delivers Series of Consistent Efforts : College basketball: Healthier lifestyle translates into 12 consecutive double-figure performances for Cal State Northridge’s top scorer.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

If not for a fainting spell one year ago, Keith Gibbs might not be leading the Cal State Northridge basketball team in scoring, steals and blocked shots this season.

Gibbs’ collapse in the second half of a game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee sounded an alarm.

His condition was caused by dehydration, due, in part, to Gibbs’ poor eating habits and late-night lifestyle.

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While the 6-foot-6 senior forward prides himself on his work ethic at practice and his relentless playing style, he said he had no idea that his lifestyle was sapping his strength and adversely affecting his play.

The fainting incident, which caused Gibbs to miss 3 1/2 games, provided proof, although Gibbs didn’t see it until June.

“I didn’t realize it was hurting me,” Gibbs said. “Then, over the summer, I was thinking about the season and I was frustrated by it and I realized I had to grow up.”

Coach Pete Cassidy became aware of Gibbs’ late-night partying and advised Gibbs to “buckle down.”

“It was my first year away from home (San Jose) and I went a little crazy,” Gibbs said, noting that he attended parties five or six nights each week. “I have always been a night owl, but until last season I would never do that during the basketball season.”

Staying out late wasn’t the only problem. Gibbs had become a fast-food junkie, his diet lacking in fluids and overflowing in cholesterol, salt and fat. “I’ve eaten at every fast-food place in Northridge,” Gibbs said.

This season, Gibbs occasionally cooks for himself and eats the meals prepared by his three new roommates, including redshirt teammate Peter Micelli.

Gibbs said his girlfriend, Amy Lent Koop, also has been a positive influence on him.

“Now, I’m more of a homebody,” Gibbs said. “I watch every (basketball) game on TV or rent a movie. If I go out, it’s once a week.”

Initially, Gibbs’ lifestyle change did not produce an improved basketball performance. When he scored in double figures in only three of the first 10 games this season--all Northridge losses--Gibbs clearly was upset.

“I was really scared because I still have hopes of playing overseas and numbers like that won’t give me the chance.” Gibbs said. “Plus, it is my last year. I didn’t want to go out like that.”

Gibbs also knew that he was under pressure to replace Kyle Kerlegan as the team’s primary scorer.

“I knew it had to be me the whole time,” Gibbs said.

If there was any question, assistant Jerry Carrillo apprised Gibbs of the coaching staff’s expectations in a preseason chat.

Gibbs finally fulfilled them on a consistent basis beginning in late December against Eastern Washington, Northridge’s first win. Gibbs missed six of nine shots but finished in double figures with the help of eight free throws made. He also had eight assists and six rebounds.

In the next game, a 74-72 loss to St. Mary’s, Gibbs broke out of his shooting slump in dramatic fashion. He connected on six consecutive shots early in the game and finished with 23 points, hitting nine of 13 from the field.

Gibbs, the team captain, has scored more than 20 points four times since and has run his streak of consecutive games in double figures to 12.

Northridge has won eight of 13 games (Gibbs missed one game to attend his grandfather’s funeral) and carries an 8-15 mark into tonight’s 7:30 game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Matador Gymnasium.

Thus far, he is averaging 14.7 points and is shooting 47.6%.

Gibbs’ value to the Matadors was underscored in their 61-57 loss to Washington on Monday. With Gibbs sidelined the last 7 1/2 minutes because of a sprained right ankle, Northridge squandered a seven-point lead.

Not only has Gibbs become the player to go to when the Matadors need a crucial basket, he has improved all phases of his game.

He leads Northridge in steals (27) and blocked shots (14), is second only to point guard Andre Chevalier in assists with 75 and is third in rebounding (106).

During the 0-10 streak, Gibbs shot 41% from the field, 25% from three-point range and he had 44 rebounds, 17 assists and 32 turnovers.

In 12 games since, he has hit 51.6% of his field-goal attempts, 40.5% of his three-point shots, and he has 62 rebounds, 57 assists and 28 turnovers.

In every statistical category, Gibbs is more productive than he was last season when he came to Northridge from West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif.

Although Gibbs has found his touch from three-point range recently, he initially improved his shooting percentage by moving closer to the basket.

“A lot of it has to do with him being in balance, in control of his shot,” Cassidy said. “We know he’s flamboyant. Now, he knows when and when not to (be flamboyant). That shows maturity and constant growth.”

Signs of that maturity were the five consecutive layups Gibbs scored with Montana State defenders in his path. A year ago Gibbs might have tried to dunk over the defenders and might have been called for charging.

“I hope I’m maturing,” Gibbs said. “Shoot, it’s my senior season.”


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