The UC Merced men’s basketball team will attempt to follow the women’s volleyball team’s lead this weekend and earn a win in their first home contest at the NAIA level.
The Golden Bobcats take on Fresno Pacific University at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center. After two road games to open the season, the nonconference battle will be the first for UC Merced on campus.
And if the turnout for the volleyball home opener — a UC Merced win over Pacific Union College on Sept. 22 — is any indication, the Bobcats can expect a large, friendly crowd.
“Our team is very excited about playing in the first official home basketball game this Saturday at UC Merced,” coach John Sykes said. “We’ve been preparing for this since we started practicing a month ago. If we just work hard and do our best, good things will happen for us.”
The Bobcats are led by seniors Aki Chambers and Daniel Castillo, who helped found the men’s basketball club team two years ago. Now, they’re moving to a bigger stage.
“We would love to have the community come see the Bobcats, because we play an exciting type of basketball that many will enjoy,” Sykes said. “Plus, the other colleges that will come here to play bring great team tradition and very good basketball players.”
UC Merced has begun its inaugural season 0-2 but showed its mettle against an NCAA Division I program last week when it traveled to face Santa Clara. After a rough start, the Bobcats settled down and even outscored the Broncos 47-46 over the game’s final 28 minutes.
“Our first home game is another way to connect our campus and local community and to recognize the efforts and support from the UC Merced students who made athletics at UC Merced a reality,” said David Noble, associate director of recreation and athletics. “Coach Sykes’ players continue to improve and raise their game to a higher level. They were exciting to watch last week at Santa Clara, and if that game is a prelude to the season, we are in for some exciting times on campus.”