TURLOCK Rob Walters was given 10 seconds to describe his role on the CSU Stanislaus men’s basketball team.
“I just bring hustle and energy,” he said. “I’m the glue guy who tries to keep everybody together and focused. I get garbage buckets, but I like my role.”
The junior power forward, a transfer from College of the Sequoias, showed again on Saturday why he’s all of the above, chipping-in 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Warriors’ 69-47 victory over Sonoma State.
It was a landmark win for Stanislaus, which improved to 10-0 at home for the first time in school history. The Warriors are 13-5 overall and 9-5 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association - a solid tie for fourth place in the race for one of the six conference tournament berths.
“We have to have the wins at home, especially since we’re battling for a playoff berth,” said coach Larry Reynolds. “We have to take advantage of it when we’re here and the guys did a great job this weekend.”
Walters’ real role can go by different names. He’s the garbage man for certain, and at 6-feet, 7-inches and 230 pounds isn’t afraid to get dirty.
But maybe his most important role is enforcer. Walters’ presence down low makes it difficult for opposing teams to double team 6-9 center Marcus Bell, and when both Bell and Walters are going well, the Warriors’ outside game opens up.
So when Bell eruped for 15 points and 17 rebounds, the in-to-out passing game was blown wide open, and Clinton Tremelling exposed it for a game-high 16-points on four-of-five from behind the arc.
“I’ve never really played with anybody bigger than me,” said Walters, who hails from Riverside. “I’ve always been the biggest guy on the team.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities because when Marcus gets doubled I can slash or spot-up for the 15-footer. When we’re out there together, it makes it easier for both of us, and we both need to be able to kick the ball out for the open 3.”
Stanislaus led wire-to-wire, opening a nine-point halftime lead and taking complete control by holding the Seawolves (3-15, 2-12) to two field goals over a 12 minute span late in the game.
The Warriors outrebounded their guests 39-23 and hit 16 of 20 free throws to complete their inside domination.
“We’re finally getting to know one another and have discovered what each other can do,” Reynolds said. “When you get to that point, you can sit back and let the players do it.
“Chris Read had a great game last night and other players, like Clint and Rob, stepped up tonight - and that’s the sign of a good team when multiple people can do that.”
Sonoma State 71, Stanislaus 58 - This one might be the season-killer for the Warriors, as the last-place Seawolves opened the final 10 minutes on a 15-2 run to notch their first road victory of the season.
“We’re not handling adversity very well,” said coach Wayman Strickland. “It’s sad to see. I’m a little discouraged in our ability to follow directions and execute under pressure. We kinda folded.”
Stanislaus (7-7 CCAA, 10-8 overall) would have maintained a tie for fourth in league play with a weekend sweep of lower-half foes this weekend, but now is in a tie for seventh after a fourth straight conference loss and needs to regain early-season form in a hurry to have a shot at the CCAA Tournament.
The Warriors rallied from a slow start to forge a 34-34 halftime tie, and it was still knotted at 47-47 midway through the second half. That’s when the offense went missing for a full six minutes, as Sonoma – playing loose and with a lot of confidence for a last-place team at 2-12, 3-15 – took control.
Briana Cotton hit eight of 11 shots from the field and finished with a career-high 22 points in 21 minutes, but she was the only Stanislaus player to reach double figures. The Warrior starting five combined for 26 points on eight-of-37 shooting.
“We still have eight games to play and hopefully we can regroup and do some things,” Strickland said. “I’m cautiously optimistic heading into next week because I don’t think we can play this bad two more games in a row at home.”