Just which Cal State Dominguez Hills basketball team shows up will determine if the Toros survive as defending champions when California Collegiate Athletic Assn. play begins next month.
That is becoming increasingly evident as the Toros wade through their preseason schedule.
Will the team be the streaky, inconsistent shooters who appeared on their most recent road trip, which ended with only one win in four games? Or will they be the intense, promising defensive-minded players who aren't afraid to push the ball up the floor when they get the break?
Saturday night, Dominguez Hills displayed both teams against visiting San Francisco State, but to the delight of Coach Dave Yanai the highly promising team overshadowed a few mental lapses in an 84-66 win.
"We're getting better," Yanai said. "We're starting to understand and recognize the things that we have to do to get better."
Dominguez Hills is 3-4.
"This is a practice-by-practice, game-by-game proposition. We're so young, it will be that way," Yanai said.
Yanai benched starting center Anthony Blackmon, the team's leading scorer and rebounder. Blackmon had not performed well in his past few games or in practice, according to Yanai. Without the 6-7 junior in the lineup, Dominguez Hills utilized a three-guard offense, which got off to a slow start.
The Toros fell behind, 10-0, with barely two minutes gone in the game, but fought back to trail by one, 20-19, with 10:11 remaining.
But then San Francisco, which played host and lost to the Toros 71-67 last week, outscored Dominguez Hills 15-5 for an 11-point cushion.
But back streaked Dominguez Hills, outscoring San Francisco 18-2 to take a 42-37 half-time lead.
The Toros held San Francisco to just one field goal in the first six minutes of the second half, and held a comfortable lead that never was less than 10 points.
Freshman guard Bryan Dell'Amico, who suffered through an 0-6 string of three-point shots in a 76-63 loss to host Biola on Thursday night, was a floor leader in the first half Saturday. The Bishop Montgomery graduate hit all four of his three-point tries in the first 20 minutes. He was also effective on defense, recording five steals. He finished with a game-high 20 points.
With Blackmon sitting out the first half, the pressure was on freshman forward Dezi Hazely, who was forced to play in the post. He squared off against 6-11 junior John Anderson and 6-6 junior Charles Grimley. Hazely, who stands 6-5, responded well, although he only scored two points in the first half. He had nine rebounds to match Grimley in the first 20 minutes and finished with six points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Blackmon started the second half and picked up three fouls in the first six minutes. He finished with only two points and three rebounds.
Junior Guard Leonard Eaton had 16 points for the Toros.
Yanai blamed the streaky play of his team on his attempt to settle on the right substitution patterns.
"That will make us look a little stiff at times," he said.