TURLOCK — Perhaps it took the graduation of Reggie Jones for the remaining CSU Stanislaus basketball players to fully appreciate his impact on the game.
Jones not only was the Warriors' first Division II first-team All-American, but he was such a dynamic offensive presence, both inside and out, that other teams were forced into specific defensive game plans.
This season, no Reggie has meant no luck for the Warriors, who dropped their fourth straight conference home game Friday night, 80-73, to San Francisco State.
"It's a lot different this year," said senior guard Marcus Walters. "Reggie demanded a double team, so that made the game easier for the rest of us.
"We have different guys on the team this year who can give us big numbers at any time, which still can make things difficult for other teams offensively. But Reggie is Reggie."
Without an inside presence to replace Jones, this year's Warrior team isn't necessarily offensively challenged, but it is an outside-first team that has to live and die with the success of the jump shot.
Against the Gators, that perimeter game went cold at exactly the wrong time.
Walters, who scored a Stanislaus career-high 20 points, hit a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 56 seconds, remaining to give the Warriors a 59-58 lead. Stanislaus would not get another field goal until Walters drove the baseline with 1:41 remaining. to pull his team within 75-64.
Between the field goals was a 17-3 run in which the Gators, a team pretty much the same size as Stanislaus, was able to get to the rim for field goals or free throws. San Francisco (6-3 overall, 4-1 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association) outshot its hosts 32-12 at the free-throw line.
"We kinda went dead there," said Warriors coach Larry Reynolds, whose team fell to 4-5, 1-4. "We never came down and answered. We're not the most comfortable team right now when things get tight. We have to learn how to play late with a one-point lead, or when we're one or two points down."
Stanislaus did enough things well to have a very good chance to win. The Warriors took care of the ball, committing only seven turnovers. It had 17 assists on its 27 field goals, and it pulled down 18 offensive rebounds that it was able to turn into 15 points.
Those are benchmark-level numbers for a team forced to play a blue collar style that contradicts its neon gold home jerseys.
"You look at 17 assists and seven turnovers and you'd think we played pretty well," Reynolds said. "But we just allowed way too many free throws and that was the difference right there."
In addition, the Warriors do have scorers. Walters was 7-for-14 from the field for his game-high total, while Ray Mitchell added 12 points and Marcellus Pullum 11.
Calvin Otiono, a transfer from San Joaquin Delta College, led San Francisco with 19 points.
Another telling stat was the 30 3-pointers hoisted by Stanislaus, which at times has five players on the floor capable of stepping back and stroking behind the arc.
"You don't have to have the one guy who can score for you," Reynolds said. "I've had teams that won without that go-to guy. But then you need the one perimeter guy you can count on for the big basket. We have several guys like that, but we haven't matured into that kind of group."
With four CCAA home losses already in the books, the odds are stacked against Stanislaus. After tonight's game against Sonoma State, the Warriors play eight of their next 10 games away from Fitzpatrick Arena.
"We've dropped four," Walters said. "You just have to think you're going to win the next game because you can't hang your head after you've lost on a Friday. You have to go home, rest up, ice up and do what you need to do to get ready for the next day."
SAN FRANCISCO 69, STANISLAUS 45 The Warrior women remain without a victory this season against another full-status Division II school, and the loss to the Gators again put on display how far they trail their peers.
Stanislaus (1-9, 0-5) committed 29 turnovers against San Francisco's man-to-man pressure defense, which the Gators (6-3, 3-2) turned into 29 points to pull away to the easy win.
The Warriors lost contact during a 14-3 San Francisco scoring run late in the first half, trailed by 10 at halftime and were down by as many as 29 points in the waning moments as they lost for the 16th time in their last 17 CCAA games.
Lauren Godde led Stanislaus with 11 points, six off her average, while Devin Brown added 10 points. Nicole Hicks had 16 points for the Gators, who also got two points and three rebounds from Shalane Jackson, a freshman from Manteca's East Union High.