A new year means a new defense for the Humboldt State men’s basketball team.
Although Steve Kinder wasn’t overly specific about what his team will be doing differently on the defensive side of the ball tonight when the ‘Jacks host CCAA foe Stanislaus State at 7:30 p.m. in Lumberjack Arena, the head coach was clear about about what he needs to see change.
“We want to keep teams to a lower point total than we have been,” Kinder said during Thursday’s press conference. “These are defensive changes we’ve been working on for a while…The players want the change, this isn’t a panic mode.”
Humboldt’s (6-6, 2-5) defense has been among the worst of any CCAA team during the first handful of conference games.
The ‘Jacks are currently giving up 83 points-per-game (ppg), constituting the 12th ranked defense out of 13 CCAA teams. The top six teams in the conference hold their opponents to under 70 ppg. Cal Poly Pomona (9-3, 5-2) leads the way with a defense giving up just 61.6 ppg.
Kinder said he is particularly focused on reducing opposing team’s field-goal percentage. The ‘Jacks allow their opponents to shoot a CCAA-worst 48.2 percent.
“I’d like to see us get that number down to 38 percent,” the coach said.
Tonight’s game against Stanislaus (8-4, 4-3) will be the first of three consecutive home games for the ‘Jacks, who will host Cal State San Marcos (6-7, 2-5) on Thursday and No. 8 UC San Diego (12-1, 6-1), on Jan 11. A home sweep to start the new year would bring the ‘Jacks back to an even .500 in conference play.
The ‘Jacks, still searching for a way to compensate for the early-season loss of the team’s then leading scorer and rebounder, RaySean Scott. Jr., may be without the services of injured starting guard Rob Lewis tonight, who Kinder said was “questionable at best” Thursday.
Leland Green, the team’s starting point guard, has also been battling the injury bug as of late but will likely be good to go against Stanislaus, according to Kinder.
Amari Green, who started the year as the team’s unquestioned sixth-man, made his first start of the season in place of Lewis in the ‘Jacks most recent game, a 93-66 road loss on Dec. 21 at Chico State (10-3, 6-2). He scored 13 points
“We’re very comfortable with (Amari Green) starting for us,” Kinder said.
The coach also noted the emergence of Zachary Christian, a 6-foot-10 center who has started on most nights in the wake of Scott Jr.’s injury. He scored a season high 20 points in the loss to Chico.
Humboldt has lost four of five games dating back to Dec. 5. It’s lone win came in its lone home game of the stretch, on Dec. 12 against San Francisco State. The ‘Jacks are 5-1 at home and 0-5 on the road this season.
“This stretch of home games is going to be very important for us,” Kinder said. “The time is now to prove ourselves.”
The Humboldt State women’s basketball team will look to shake off back-to-back CCAA loses tonight when it hosts Stanislaus State at 5:30 p.m.
The ‘Jacks (8-4, 4-3) fell 60-51 on the road at Chico State (8-5, 4-4) on Dec. 21 despite the team’s leading scorer, Alexia Thrower, putting up 30 points and 17 rebounds.
Now sitting in a three-way tie for fourth in the conference, Humboldt can leap-frog Stanislaus (7-5, 5-2) in the CCAA standings with a win tonight.
“The parody in this conference in unreal,” Humboldt head coach Michelle Bento-Jackson said. “You have to be ready to go every night.”
During Thursday’s press conference Bento-Jackson said she wanted to see her team “execute better on defense and stay aggressive on offense.”
Humboldt will host the conference’s current second-place team, Cal State San Marcos (10-2, 5-2), on Thursday in another game which would see the ‘Jacks move up the CCAA standings with a win.
The ‘Jacks have been competitive and viable for a win in all of their conference games this season. It’s been the scoring lulls and occasional let downs on defense which have proven to be the difference for a club which could very well be undefeated in conference play.
Humboldt’s three conference losses have been by 9, 7 and 1 point(s).
“I think inconstancy has been our biggest downfall,” Bento-Jackson said. “We’ve had spurts where we’ve been very good this season.”
That said, everything the ‘Jacks hoped to achieve in 2020 — a conference title, tournament championship and West Region playoff berth — are still right on the table.