TURLOCK — There are some coaches who choose not to pay attention to how their record stands up against history, thinking such comparisons are hardly relevant.
Cal State Stanislaus women’s basketball coach Wayman Strickland is not one of them.
When asked Thursday if he was aware his team’s 5-1 start in conference play was the program’s best in 14 years, he instantly answered in the affirmative.
What’s more, he didn’t seem surprised.
“We’re playing the style right now I said we would be playing last year,” Strickland said. “But it was a matter of working with the player development and getting skilled players into the program.”
The Warrior women enter this weekend’s play at 8-2 overall and tied atop the California Collegiate Athletic Association with Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State East Bay.
This weekend’s opponents – Cal State Los Angeles tonight and Cal State Dominguez Hills on Saturday – are in a group of four teams tied at 4-2.
The women tip off at 5:30 p.m. on both nights, with the men following at 7:30 inside Fitzpatrick Arena in Turlock.
That style of which Strickland speaks surfaced last season. The Warriors press and run, press and run, and then press and run some more. Last season, when they didn't have the depth or overall talent needed to be successful in that style, they wilted in games and walked away from the season at 2-25 overall, 1-21 in the CCAA.
“The good thing about last year is that I got great support from my fellow coaches and my athletic director,” Strickland said. “We’re doing things the right away. When you fail, it doesn’t mean you made a mistake, so last year was a starting point for this program and the returning seniors have set the base point for how hard we’re going to work and compete.”
The difference? This year, nine different Warriors are averaging 10 or more minutes per game on the court, with five scoring eight or more points per game, and all that bench strength is needed. Stanislaus ranks first in the league in scoring (76.4 points per game) and last in the league in scoring defense (71.0.)
It’s also first in forcing turnovers and first in the number of fouls committed.
“We have players who don’t mind taking open shots, and we share the ball,” Strickland said. “The seniors are showing great leadership and tremendous unselfishness. and that kind of leadership is contagious. They’ve set the tone from day one.”
In one area, the Warrior men and women will be enjoying the same advantage. Since both have played five of their first six CCAA games on the road, they’ll finish the regular season with 10 of the last 16 on the home floor. And the Stanislaus men (4-2, 6-3) can make their own more toward first place with a good weekend.
It won’t be easy. Cal State Los Angeles comes in at 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the CCAA, which ties it with Cal State San Bernardino for first place. It might get a little easier Saturday for the Warriors, with CSU Dominguez Hills entering tonight’s game at Chico State with a 5-8 record, 2-4 in league play.
“This will be a good opportunity for us, but we’ll have to play at the top of our game to be there at the end of these games,” said coach Larry Reynolds. “I guess getting to play all these home games is an advantage if you can look ahead that far. These two games this weekend are very important because in this conference you really need to hold on to the home games.”
The Warriors men, much like the women, attack foes with an up-tempo, pressing style. They’re first in the CCAA in both turnovers committed and created, but more important are shooting at 50 percent from the floor to lead the conference. Marcus Bell, the senior center from Enochs High, leads the conference at 63.6 percent. He’s also second in the league in rebounding (8.7) and fifth in scoring (18.7.)
“I do like to play that way, and the shooting percentage is good because Marcus, Rob (Walters) and Chris (Read) are very good around the basket,” Reynolds said. “We’d like to be shooting better from the 3, and if we did that would open things up inside. But we shot well at San Diego (in a 70-64 win last Friday) and hopefully that continues at home.”