Cuesta College

Cuesta College men’s basketball team rolling into rivalry matchup with Allan Hancock

Cuesta College sophomore Karem Özel drives to the basketball during a Western State Conference game last winter. The Cougars host rival Allan Hancock at 5 p.m. Wednesday inside Cuesta Gym.
Cuesta College sophomore Karem Özel drives to the basketball during a Western State Conference game last winter. The Cougars host rival Allan Hancock at 5 p.m. Wednesday inside Cuesta Gym. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The Cuesta College men’s basketball team seems to have turned a corner in recent weeks and will bring a three-game winning streak into its matchup against rival Allan Hancock at 5 p.m. Wednesday inside Cuesta Gym.

Once the calendar turned to January, longtime head coach Rusty Blair’s team found its footing and put an uneven nonconference schedule in the rearview mirror. The Cougars are 10-11 overall and 3-0 in the Western State Conference North Division standings, having won five of their last six games overall.

Sophomore Alex Ouandie has been one of the catalysts offensively. The 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward leads five Cuesta players averaging double-digit scoring with 13.5 points on 51-percent shooting from the field, to go with 5.4 rebounds in less than 23 minutes per game.

Ouandie was at his best during last week’s 75-70 win over Ventura. He scored 29 points on 11-for-16 shooting, including a 7-for-9 effort from behind the 3-point line. Four days later, Ouandie scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Cougars rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat Oxnard, 74-70.

Freshman guard Noah Saunders, who is averaging 11.3 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds this season, added 18 points and seven rebounds in the comeback victory. Saunders has led the Cougars in scoring three of the last six games.

Sophomore guards Karem Özel (11.5), Andres Aguado (11.5) and Donovin Townsend (10.4) are all averaging in double figures and shooting better than 40 percent from the field.

Meanwhile, Allan Hancock (10-13, 0-3 WSC) is looking to end a three-game skid after coming out on the losing end of a 60-59 decision against Santa Barbara last week.

The Bulldogs are led by sophomore guard Marcellus Garrick, who is averaging 14 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Sophomores Shane Carney (13.1) and Kevawn Lord (10.2) have also helped shoulder some of the scoring load for an offense that can’t seem to get out of its own way.

Allan Hancock’s 19.8 turnovers per game rank 92nd out of 93 teams in the state this season.

Collins has Cougars in the hunt

On the women’s side, Cuesta ended a three-game losing streak and secured its first Western State Conference victory this past Saturday by defeating Oxnard, 65-42.

The Cougars (12-9, 1-2 WSC) can potentially make up some ground in the conference standings with a win against Allan Hancock at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Cuesta Gym. The Bulldogs are 12-7 overall and 1-2 against conference opponents.

When the two teams met during the Cuesta Tournament championship game in early December, Allan Hancock cruised to a 63-43 victory behind Grace Rosa’s 18-point, seven-rebound performance. The Cougars were held to one of their worst shooting efforts of the season (31.3 percent) and went a combined 1-for-11 from behind the 3-point line.

Freshman guard Madison Collins has been perhaps Cuesta’s best all-around player in her first year with the team. She is nearly averaging a double-double with 15.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. During one stretch in nonconference play, Collins led the Cougars in scoring with six consecutive 20-point performances.

Cuesta has enough balance offensively to overcome the defensive attention Collins is likely to receive the rest of the way. Taylor Neal (12.3 points, 7.6 rebounds), Courtney Barbara (11.4 points, 3.6 steals) and Dolores Neal (8.2 points, 6.5 rebounds) have started all 21 games this season.

Point guard Tawny Lino averages more than 12 points, 3 assists and 3 steals per contest, and her 17-point effort against Oxnard last week was one of her best statistical performances this season.

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