TURLOCK — There’s a movement afoot to start paying NCAA athletes, so here’s an idea for Cal State Stanislaus: pay point guard Sam Marcus per-dribble.
It might make the 5-feet, 8-inch senior from Bakersfield the highest-paid person in the CSU system, and for Stanislaus it would be worth the investment.
Over the Warriors’ two conference victories this weekend, including Saturday’s very workmanlike 70-54 decision over CSU Dominguez Hills, it was primarily up to Marcus to control the team’s halfcourt tempo through crunch time.
And the fact that Stanislaus won both games going away speaks to his effectiveness in the role.
“Sam’s doing a tremendous job for us and he’s growing into the role,” said Stanislaus coach Larry Reynolds. “He’s always had the quickness and the ability, but now he has the timing. He has the nice rhythm to his game and he doesn’t try to do too much, too early.”
The presence of a guard capable of working the clock is priceless in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, one of the few conferences in the nation that requires its teams to play on back-to-back nights every week.
That scheduling rule makes Saturday games often ragged, but it does reward those teams with the toughness to reach deep for extra energy during the second half of the second game.
“It’s absolutely tough the second night,” Marcus said. “You’re trying to get rid of the soreness from Friday’s game and you’re tired. But all we need to do is play basketball and go to school, so I’m pretty sure we can grind it out.”
And the Warriors, now 5-3 in the CCAA, 9-3 overall, certainly emerged as the better grinder in this game.
Stanislaus got six points from Chris Read during a 12-4 run to open the second half, taking a 44-35 lead with 15:30 left in the game. Moments later, senior center Marcus Bell went to the bench with his third foul, and the battle of attrition was on.
Stanislaus went to a smaller lineup against the smaller Toros (2-6, 5-10,) who used that as a cue to start attacking the basket. Over the next eight minutes, it was the Warriors’ smaller lineup that held the fort until Bell could return.
“The team did really well with Marcus (Bell) on the bench,” Reynolds said. “We had a really short lineup in there, and they still had to battle on the boards, and we held on until we could get troops back in there.”
Back-to-back field goals inside cut the Warriors’ margin to 52-47 with 7:37 remaining, which was the cue for a well-rested Bell to re-enter the game. He would finish with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while power forward Rob Walters had 10 points and 15 rebounds.
The lead immediately went back to 10 points, which was the signal for Stanislaus to start milking the clock. It was Marcus time, and after working the clock on the dribble he delivered three straight drive-and-dish assists with the shot clock under five seconds as the Warriors finished the weekend’s marathon with a sprint.
“Coach trusts me with the ball and so do my teammates,” Marcus said. “It’s a lot easier to do that when you have great teammates like I do. I just have to be ready to step it up in those situations.
“We knew they were going to come up and crowd me, so it was fortunate for me that my teammates got open.”
Shey Matale added 12 points, while Marcus’ decidedly unflashy final line included seven points and six assists in 33 minutes. Statistically, that’s not a huge contribution, but the reality was that Marcus was the best player on the floor during crunch time of a CCAA Saturday night game.
“The guys are getting better and more comfortable with their roles,” Reynolds said. “They’re settling into a nice pace. We still have to get in a little better shape and realize how games on Saturday nights in the CCAA aren’t the most beautiful things.”