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Men's Capsules

March 10, 2004|Eric Stephens

TONIGHT'S GAMES

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (11-15) vs. UC Riverside (10-16), 6, KPRO (1570) -- Riverside qualified for the conference tournament in the first season in which it was eligible. Highlander center Vili Morton, who has been playing with an injured foot, scored 23 and 17 points in the last two games. Cal Poly logged impressive early season victories over California and USC but lost six of seven in two stretches. The Mustangs made the tournament by defeating UC Irvine on Saturday. Cal Poly doesn't have much depth, but it has three of the conference's top scorers: center Varnie Dennis, forward Shane Schilling and guard Kameron Gray.

Cal State Fullerton (11-16) vs. Cal State Northridge (11-15), approximately 8:30 -- The teams will meet for the second time in five days. Needing a victory to reach the tournament, Fullerton routed Northridge, 95-70, Saturday. After hitting a rough patch halfway through the conference season, Fullerton forward Pape Sow has been dominant, averaging 23.5 points and 11.8 rebounds in the last four games. Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell last week lifted his suspension of former starters Joseph Frazier and Chris Davis -- and the Matadors responded by losing consecutive home games.

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TONIGHT'S WINNERS ADVANCE

TO THURSDAY'S QUARTERFINALS

UC Santa Barbara (16-11) -- Santa Barbara was expected to challenge for the regular-season championship with seniors Branduinn Fullove, Nick Jones, Jacoby Atako and Bryan Whitehead leading the way. Instead, the Gauchos didn't come close. Jones, who started the season with an eight-game suspension and lost his starting job, broke out of a season-long slump with 20 points Saturday in a victory over Long Beach State. Junior forward Cameron Goettsche has emerged as the team's top inside scoring threat despite a broken thumb.

Idaho (13-15) -- The Vandals are short on size but make up for it by playing aggressive defense. In winning eight of their last 11 conference games, they allowed an average of 56 points. Senior forward Tyrone Hayes averages team-bests of 13 points and 5.7 rebounds. Senior guard Dwayne Williams led the Big West with 76 three-point baskets. Idaho has not won a tournament game in five tries.

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THURSDAY'S WINNERS ADVANCE

TO FRIDAY'S SEMIFINALS

Pacific (22-7) -- Utah State is the team with the national ranking, but the Tigers are the conference's hottest team. They are winners of 13 games in a row, the third-longest current streak in the nation. Pacific's opponents have shot only 40% while the Tigers rank among the best in the Big West in field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage. Senior guard Miah Davis was the conference's player of the year, but sophomore forward Christian Maraker is also capable of big games.

Utah State (25-2) -- The No. 22 Aggies don't have a standout player -- which might be their best trait. Utah State has a penchant for taking over close games in the final minutes, going 12-1 in games decided by 10 points or fewer. Senior guard Cardell Butler came of age in Anaheim last year. Senior point guard Mark Brown and junior forward Spencer Nelson are the Aggies' emotional leaders. There is some question as to whether the Aggies would be selected for the NCAA tournament if they don't earn the Big West's automatic bid by winning the conference tournament.

-- Eric Stephens

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