Toros Coming Down To The Wire On 22-23 Seasoncsudhbulletin February 8, 2023 0 COMMENTS
Jordan Hillstock surveys his options as his team looks on. Credit: Chris Perry, CSUDH Athletics
By Raymond Castillo Sports Editor
The young and explosive California State University, Dominguez Hills men’s basketball team is just that. That can serve as both a blessing and a curse for head coach Steve Becker, who is in his 10th season as the leader of the program and has made the conference tournament in each of his last five seasons.
“We’re just really young,” Becker said. “We’re learning how to win. In all my years of college coaching, this has been the strangest year we’ve had.”
Each season possesses its own set of challenges, and this season is no different. The Toros have just three seniors on their roster, so experience in tough situations is extremely limited. A multitude of injuries to key players has forced Becker into a number of lineup changes that have never allowed the team to get a solid footing in practice, let alone throughout games.
Despite losing their last six games in some of the most heartbreaking fashions, including losing an overtime thriller to San Francisco State University and a loss by one point at home on a last-second free throw by California State University, Stanislaus, the Toros are still battling to the bitter end. The high intensity and fierce competitiveness are the core of Becker’s teams.
“That is something we will do.” Becker said, “We will play hard and we will defend at a high level.”
A couple of wins over two tough opponents for the Toros in the next week can easily push the Toros right back into the thick of things or they can set them back even further with time quickly running out to make a run. They will travel to Sonoma to take on Sonoma State University on Thursday (02/09/2023) followed by a matchup in Arcata on Saturday against California Polytechnic University Humboldt.
Having lost to Humboldt the last time they played, the Toros will not be given anything easily and need huge contributions from their best players so far this season. DJ Guest, Jordan Hillstock, and Cameron Barry have led the Toros this season and are needed to step up big.
Guest, the redshirt sophomore coming off of knee surgery after his freshman year, has steadily improved this season. He averages 13.2 points and 7.0 rebounds for the Toros while providing a steady defensive presence, guarding multiple positions. Becker called Guest “tremendous” with the way he has evolved this season and has committed to getting better.
Hillstock, the junior guard, has been the team’s best defender this season, often taking on the opposition’s best offensive player. After playing in only 16 games as a freshman, and 23 as a sophomore, Hillstock has started every single game this season and has taken full advantage of that opportunity.
“Jordan just defends the basketball at a high level, he’s so fast, so physical, he works really hard, and he’s been shooting the ball really well all year,” said Becker.
Barry, the team leader in points per game with 14.1, has been a marksman from deep, leading the team with 58 three-point makes this season which is good for fourth in the CCAA.
If the playoffs started today, the Toros would be on the outside looking in. However, after weathering the worst part of the storm, the boys are poised to make a late-season push to the conference playoffs.
“It’s about finishing ball games at this point,” said Becker.
Finishing games are what makes good teams great, but if you can not, it makes heartbreaking losses hurt even more. The Toros sit 3 ½ games out of a playoff spot with six games to play and no easy games coming up. It is now or never for the Toros and they are ready for the fight.