Wildcats’ defensive shines in home opener victory

Wildcats’ defensive shines in home opener victory

CHICO- It was an emotional night at Acker Gym Wednesday. For the first time in 624 days, the Chico State men’s basketball program hosted a home game and the Wildcats came out victorious, taking down the Academy of Art Urban Knights 71-61.

The ‘Cats defense stole the show in the home opener. The intensity and hustle shined and the Urban Knights were held to just 38% shooting and 22% shooting from behind the arc.

“I think our defense has been pretty consistent,” said head coach Greg Clink. “Defensive is why we won tonight because it certainly was not our offense execution. Our defense allowed us to keep a lead for most of the game.”

Coming out of the gate, there were nerves being flushed out by both teams. Both teams struggled to find the hoop early and it was back and forth for the first five minutes of the game.

“It’s kind of surreal,” said senior forward Malik Duffy of playing in his last first home game. “For me personally, I was really nervous coming into the game. I had butterflies all day, but it feels good to be back on the court.”

Malik Duffy sets up for a three pointer in the second half of Chico State’s 71-61 win over Academy of Art Wednesday, Nov. 17 at Acker Gymnasium at Chico State in Chico, California. (Matthew Wreden/Chico Enterprise-Record)

The Wildcats started slow, missing a lot of their early jumpers but it was Duffy who got the Wildcats going with a 3-point shot from the top of the key three minutes into the game.

But mid-way through the first half, the Wildcats were able to find success pushing the pace and it was the 3-point shots that kept the Wildcats ahead for most of the first half. They shot an impressive 58% from behind the line in the first half.

Duffy, the 6-foot-8 forward and senior, is the focal point of the Wildcats’ offense and the Urban Knights did a great job of making Duffy take most of his shots behind the arc.

Duffy finished the night with a double-double going for 13 points, 11 rebounds and going 4-4 at the free-throw line.

For most of the game, the Wildcats struggled to find consistency at the bucket. There was a stretch in the second half where the Wildcats could not get a bucket for 12 straight minutes.

“Offensively we need to figure some stuff out,” Clink said. “We are not sharing the ball. The movement of our offense was stagnant and we are not getting great shots.”

The Wildcats also found themselves in foul trouble early in the game and it continued throughout most of the game. The ‘Cats committed 20 personal fouls with Kevin Wright committing four and Joshua Hamilton also committing four.

In situations like these, coach Clink relies on the bench to get them through the foul trouble.

“The bench obviously needs to step up,” Clink said. “I need to give them more minutes than I normally would. I think Evan Oliver’s shifts were good and Josh Curl gave good shifts.”

Isaiah Brooks and Kevin Warren, the other seniors on the team, finished the night with 15 points and 14 points, respectively.

The Wildcats will be back in action at 7 p.m. Nov. 23 at Acker Gym to take on Pacific Union. CCAA play will begin for the Wildcats on Nov. 27 against Stanislaus State.

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