By Nick Peralta
The Riverside City College’s men’s basketball team is struggling to keep up momentum following a successful start to the 2018 season.
After going on a 3-0 run to start the season that saw the Tigers win the We Play Hard Tournament at the beginning of November, the Tigers have since gone 1-2 in their last three games.
“Well we got a young team that’s still improving,” head coach Philip Mathews said. “The two games we lost were pretty close. We actually could be 6-0. But you know, that’s basketball. We made some costly mistakes in those games and didn’t come away with the victory.
In 2017, the team acquired a moderate 16-11 record that saw them make it all the way to second round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs where they would lose in triple overtime in one of the closest and longest contested postseason games in the state’s postseason history according to RCC Athletics.
In 2016, RCC had a more favorable record of 23-9 and made it to the Southern California Regional Finals.
This season, the goals are set to see the Tigers make it farther than previous seasons under the experienced leadership of Mathews, who is now under his sixth year at the position.
A native of Riverside, Mathews arrived at RCC in June 2013 after spending three years as an assistant coach at UCLA where he worked alongside head coach Ben Howland.
In the last three games, the Tigers have lost to Long Beach City College and Citrus College while blowing out San Diego Mesa College.
In both games, the Tigers lost closely contested games losing to Long Beach 75-70 and against Citrus, 84-80.
This shows that the team will not be one that is so easy to dispatch this season.
Leading the team overall as a player to watch out for is sophomore point guard CJ Clark who leads the team in free throw shooting accuracy at 70 percent as well as 82 points total throughout their starting six games. Clark is also fifth in rebounds and second in assists while also having shot the most three pointers with 17 to start the year with a 70 percent shooting accuracy.
“CJ is a Riverside native,” Mathews said. “He sat out last year, so he’s a more mature player. This improvement was to be expected of him. He’s taken on the challenge and he’s come through so far for this team.”
Other players that have impressed this season include sophomore guard Rico Tate who leads the team in assists with 22.
Maurice Tutt ranks in the top five of the team with 52 points scored as well as leading the team in overall rebounds with 29 alongside Frankie McQuay.
The Tigers will look to bring in some momentum as they take on College of the Canyans next on Nov. 29 and Mt. San Jacinto College the following day all before the annual Riverside Holiday Classic which will begin Dec. 5 and take place across the remainder of the month.
“Our goal is always to try and win championships, Mathews said. “We want to win championships in the Orange Empire league and then advance to the state tournament. This team has a chance to win the state tournament. That’s always our goal. But we got a young team. We’ve improved where we needed in order to compete with everyone else.”