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JUMPERS FACE BIG CVC TEST AGAINST FRESNO

BRANDON RUSSELL and the Claim Jumpers will try to upset No. 2-ranked Fresno on Saturday. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
BRANDON RUSSELL and the Claim Jumpers will try to upset No. 2-ranked Fresno on Saturday. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).

By DAN GOLDMAN

Coming on the heels of its impressive 92-89 overtime win against Reedley in the Central Valley Conference opener on Wednesday, the Columbia College basketball team will get its toughest test of the season to date when it travels to Fresno on Saturday to take on the undefeated and No. 2-ranked Rams.

Fresno, which wiped out College of Sequoias 108-87 on the road in its CVC opener on Wednesday, has built a 21-0 record and trails only Diablo Valley (19-0) in both the Northern California and state rankings.

"There's no doubt, they are a good team," Columbia assistant coach Rich Murphy said. "They've won three tournaments so far, so they've played good competition, and they play very, very hard."

The Rams make their living off a high-octane offense that averages a mind-numbing 103.4 points per game — 15 points better than Chabot, the No. 2 offense in the state.

"They run a full-court press and trap a lot," Murphy said. "They definitely like to run 'n' gun.

"They shoot a lot of three (pointers) and penetrate a lot. If you stop the penetration, they'll kick it out for a three. If you don't stop them, they'll either go to the basket or dump it off inside."

The main instigators from the perimeter are freshmen guards Jason Walberg (20.7 ppg, 45 percent 3-point shooter) and Tyrone Jackson (17.9 ppg, 6.8 assists per game). Either is capable of hitting from the arc or getting penetration and finishing Fresno's big man, 6-6 Carl Lee, under the basket.

When Lee gets the ball in his hands under the basket, he usually finishes. The sophomore forward, who skipped the 2001-02 season after making the all-CVC first team in 2000-01, is averaging 18.2 ppg on 63 percent field-goal shooting.

"I think (Lee) is the key for them," Murphy said. "Without him, they wouldn't have a post presence. He does a great job of being there for somebody to dump off to when they penetrate."


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