Cal State Dominguez Hills basketball Coach David Yanai has fielded one of the shorter teams in the school's history, but you couldn't tell it by the way the Toros played against the Australian National Basketball League champions Thursday night.
After a nervous opening in which Dominguez Hills failed to score in the first three minutes, the Toros gave the much taller Brisbane Bullets all they could handle before falling, 67-59, in an exhibition played under NCAA rules at the campus gymnasium.
Although it doesn't count, the Toro performance ranks as a plus for a team that will start a three-guard offense most of the year. The Bullets, playing their sixth game in seven days of a two-week swing through western Canada and the United States, have not lost yet, but they hadn't been pushed either by their other opponents such as Western or Central Washington universities.
"Our kids played pretty well for this time of the year," said Yanai, who couldn't keep back a wry smile. "I was really happy with their effort."
Brisbane started a front line that averaged 6-7 and then mixed in, among others, a 6-10 back-up forward.
In contrast, the tallest player Yanai has is 6-7 junior center Anthony Blackmon. Blackmon coolly scored the team's first four baskets to erase an early Brisbane lead.
The Toros even held a pair of 6-point leads midway through the first half. Blackmon is the lone starter returning for Yanai.
Earlier in the week Yanai had said that he would use the contest to find the "right combinations." Just about every combination he put on the floor Thursday night appeared to perform well. He called the output "promising."
"Our ability to take care of the ball so early in the year and to push up the tempo was good," he said.
Ten players saw action for the Toros. Freshman guard Robert Barksdale of Hawthorne High led Dominguez Hills with 13 points. Blackmon finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Junior transfer Derrick Clark, a guard, also had six rebounds.
While the match showcased the speedy Toros against their taller opponents, it also provided a glimpse at basketball Down Under to a small crowd.