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LONG BEACH STATE NOTEBOOK / JASON REID

Boychuk Instills Confidence in Her Team

February 17, 1996|Jason Reid

No one is talking about a Big West Conference tournament championship, an NCAA tournament berth or discussing other hoop dreams.

The qualifiers aside, however, the Long Beach State women's basketball team is doing well, especially considering so little was expected.

"We've still got a lot of games to go, so nothing is certain," first-year Coach Dallas Boychuk said. "But we have played well at times and the players are very confident."

That's cautious coach-speak. The translation: The 49ers have overachieved in a big way, and they believe they can do much more.

With four regular-season games left, Long Beach is fifth in the Big West at 13-10, 8-6. UC Irvine (10-12, 5-8), last season's Big West tournament winner, is sixth with five conference games left.

The fifth and sixth slots are ideal to occupy because the tournament, March 7-9 at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, has been downsized from 10 to six teams this season.

Boychuk became used to winning Big Ten titles as the lead assistant coach at Purdue, so fifth-place finishes aren't part of her long-range plans. But that's as good as things been at Long Beach in a while.

The 49ers were fifth during the regular season last year (13-14, 10-8), their second-best finish in four years under former Coach Glenn McDonald. Long Beach finished sixth and seventh, respectively, during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons. McDonald was reassigned to another position in the athletic department after last season.

Enter Boychuk. Her colleagues didn't think much of her chances--or players--this season. In a preseason poll of conference coaches, the 49ers were picked to finish eighth. Boychuk used the poll as a motivational tool, challenging the 49ers to prove the coaches wrong.

It worked even better than she thought. Long Beach has been competitive, barely falling short against the Big West's best. Long Beach is 2-4 in conference games decided by three points or less.

"We've had so many close games," Boychuk said. "Yeah, we're in fifth, but it's kind of frustrating that so many of our conference losses are so close. A lot of our games could have gone either way."

Long Beach probably won't move up in the standings. UC Santa Barbara (17-5, 13-1) leads the Big West and Hawaii (18-3, 12-1) is second. New Mexico State is third with a 10-4 conference record.

"I don't think there is anybody in the conference the players feel they can't beat," Boychuk said. "And if we just stay where we are and get to the tournament, we feel anything can happen on a neutral court."

*

Big improvement: Senior center Ja'net Davis might be the Big West's most improved player.

Davis is averaging 13 points and leads the team with 7.9 rebounds. She leads the Big West in blocked shots (3.4) and is third in the nation.

As a junior, Davis (6 feet 4) averaged only three points and 3.7 rebounds in 27 games. More was expected of Davis, who was a teammate of U.S. national team star Lisa Leslie at Inglewood Morningside High.

However, Davis spent much of her first three college seasons on the bench. Boychuk challenged her to be more aggressive this season, and Davis has responded.

"Ja'net has been playing really well," Boychuk said. "She's been pretty consistent, which is important for us."

*

No more burritos: The 49ers got more than they counted on--or wanted--during a weekend trip to Las Vegas.

Five members of the team and Tony Gervase, assistant sports information director, contracted food poisoning while eating at a Mexican restaurant on Saturday night, Boychuk said. With Long Beach playing Nevada Las Vegas on Sunday, Boychuk was worried.

"I saw them all hunched over holding their stomachs that morning in the hotel lobby, and I was like, 'Oh, no,' " Boychuk said. "I wasn't sure if we were going to have enough players to play."

The players afflicted were freshman guard Ember Brown, Davis, junior center Toby Metoyer, senior forward Kim Barfield and sophomore forward Monique Matthews. Brown, Metoyer and Matthews did not dress for the game.

Davis started the game on the bench in street clothes, but convinced Boychuk to let her play sparingly. Barfield started and scored a career-high 32 points, leading Long Beach to an 83-68 victory.

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49er Notes

Long Beach men's basketball player Rasul Salahuddin is among the Big West's hottest players. Salahuddin, a senior point guard, almost single-handedly brought Long Beach back from 17 points down late in the second half Monday night in UC Irvine's 84-81 conference victory at the Pyramid. Salahuddin scored 13 points in roughly the final 2 1/2 minutes, and his three-point attempt to tie the score at the buzzer hit the front of the rim. The Big West's leader in steals, Salahuddin had five in the game and has 76 for the season. He broke the all-time single-season school record for steals, set by Morlon Wiley with 74 in 29 games during the 1987-88 season. . . . Brandy Barratt, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker from Gonzaga Prep High in Spokane, Wash., and Anja Grabovac, an outside hitter from Rijeka, Croatia, signed letters of intent to play at Long Beach State, Coach Brian Gimmillaro announced Thursday.

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