Speedy Slugs Outrun Bobcats at Merced

Outside Hosteltler Court at UC Merced, there was a mild drizzle. Inside, Sam Allen was raining threes as he hit five to lead the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs to a comfortable 76-71 victory over the UC Merced Bobcats. With the victory, the Slugs ran their record to 10-9. In doing so, Santa Cruz is about .500 for the season in January for the first time since January of 1998, the last time the Slugs finished about .500 for a season, 13-12. In Friday night's narrow victory over Chapman, the Slugs won playing a slow, deliberate style. On Sunday afternoon, the men from Cruz showed why most teams choose not to run with them. In a fast pace game, the quick hands and feet of the inappropriately named Slugs scored on a variety of transition baskets. After Griffin Alexander of the Bobcats opened up the scoring with a three, Sam Allen went on an individual 7-2 run capped by a spot up three to give the Slugs the lead four minutes into the game. For the rest of the game, UC Merced would never get any closer than 2 points. With Sam feeling it and the rest of the team running the floor, the lead gradually expanded. After a rebound and put back by freshman James Townsend, the Slugs went up by 10. That lead peaked at 13 off of a high-energy sequence triggered by Kevin Konopelksi's block at the three-minute mark. Trent Reeves grabbed the rejection and kicked it out to a streaking Sam Allen. Three seconds later, Sam floated it in for one of his acrobatic lay ups to push the lead to 33-20. The stubborn Bobcats refused to go away, finishing on an 8-4 run to narrow the Slug lead to 37-28 at halftime. UC Merced started the second half on another run. Their outstanding shooting guard, Aki Chambers opened with a rebound and put back followed by a short jumper to cut the lead to five points 1:30 into the second half. Santa Cruz countered with a 7-0 run punctuated by a patented Nathan Mohri to Brent Jacobs alley oop dunk to push the lead to 44-32. In this crazy fast game, the Bobcats responded one more time before Sam Allen went on a personal reign of terror by scoring the Slugs next 10 points. Obviously feeling it, he drained three straight threes plus a free throw. Thriving in the end-to-end tempo, the fast feet of Sam Allen and the smooth ball skills of Nathan Mohri, the Slugs were able to knife right through Merced's defense. After Allen found Mohri wide open for a three, the Slugs lead ballooned to 73-56 and Coach Johnson called a time out to pull the starters. While UC Merced closed the game on a 15-3 run to make the final score more respectable, the Slugs prevailed 76-71 to come away with their tenth win of the season. In doing so, it is the fourth straight year that the Slugs have achieved double-digit wins, making Coach Johnson the only coach in the history of the program to have coached four straight teams to 10 or more wins. In the history of the program, only five teams have ever finished above .500 for a season. With six games left in the regular season, the 2011-2012 team has an opportunity to join this group. While the Bobcats do not have the same length of history as the Slugs, Aki Chamber continues to be an outstanding player for them. Held to only five points in the first half, he exploded in the second half to lead the Bobcats with 20 points. Javon Barrino had 14 and Anthony Shephard had 12. For the Slugs, Sam Allen had a career night, scoring 25 points on seven for twelve from the floor. Brent Jacobs had another solid game scoring 15 and freshman James Townsend had a career best eight points on four for four from the floor. Nick Hipwell was the leading rebounder, grabbing two offense and five defensive boards for a total of seven. All 15 Slugs that dressed played and freshman David Salazar scored his first point as a Slug. Stats for the game are now on line at the Slugs website. Next up for Santa Cruz are two home games next weekend at the Slug Dome. On Friday night at 6pm, the Slugs play Pacifica College and on Saturday at 7pm the men from Cruz host a rematch with the UC Merced Bobcats. Pacifica lost to Chapman on January 14, 82-61 and lost to West Coast Baptist 83-71. Leading scorers for the Gladiators appear to be Jerry Santos, a junior guard, Alex Brandon, a junior guard and Quincy Spencer, a freshman forward. Playing a big time schedule, Pacifica has played D2 schools Cal State Stanislaus, Humboldt State, Cal State Los Angeles, Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona. In addition, they have played D1 programs, Santa Clara and Cal State Northridge. Common opponents include the already mentioned Chapman plus Arizona Christian, Redlands, Caltech and Cal Lutheran. They lost to Arizona Christian 63-57, Redlands 84-70, Caltech 63-62 and Cal Lutheran 72-60.