UC Merced men's basketball team scores a first

John Sykes said it feels like a whole year has passed since the UC Merced men's basketball team played its inaugural home game.

While the calendar year did change, it's only been about a month and a half.

It was just enough time for the Golden Bobcats to pick up the first win in program history and play in their first tournament championship game. UC Merced achieved both last week at the Westmont Warrior Classic.

Host Westmont took home the crown, but the Golden Bobcats' 88-79 upset victory over British Columbia was a huge confidence boost.

Sykes said the group's developing a swagger, and he hopes it's on display Thursday night at home against Cal State San Marcos.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation & Wellness Center.

"We're glad to be at home again," Sykes said. "The monkey's off our back and I think the guys are ready to start competing every night.

"Assistant coach Kyle Mesa pointed out the other night when they were warming up that they don't have that deer-in-the-headlights look anymore.

"With most of the kids home on break, we're hoping a lot more of the community will get the chance to come and see us this time."

Closing out '11 strong

The Merced College women's basketball team not only won the consolation title at the Mike Gervasoni Memorial Classic last week, it did it by throwing up some points.

The Lady Devils hadn't scored more than 65 points on the season heading into the tournament. They managed to top that in all three games with scores of 90, 85 and 75. The 250 points was five more than MC put up in its last two tournaments combined.

Perhaps more importantly, head coach Allen Huddleston got some big bench play for the first time all year.

Kelsey Lemasney set a school record with seven 3s in a victory over Porterville and Rebecca Schonauer earned her way onto the all-tournament team with a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds) in a win over Solano.

McCreary's first class

UC Merced women's volleyball coach Allen McCreary closed out December by inking six recruits for next year.

The whole class is from the Central Valley, led by Fresno Pacific sophomore transfer and former Golden Valley star Kat Blake.