SANTA CRUZ — A few nights ago, the Santa Cruz Warriors coaching staff challenged Quinn Cook to raise his game to another level.
The star two-way guard has met his coaches’ challenge and then some.
A night after pouring in 43 points and dishing 11 assists, Cook wowed again by recording 33 points, eight assists and four rebounds to help Santa Cruz snap a three-game losing streak with a 118-84 win over the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario on Saturday night.
“I haven’t been playing up to the level I can play at these past couple of weeks,” Cook said. “My coaches have been holding me accountable, and I’ve just been trying to respond to my teammates and to those that believe in me.”
Cook’s driving layup with 6:26 left in the first quarter gave the Warriors (17-13) a 12-10 lead, and they never looked back.
Cook punctuated a Warriors’ scoring barrage through the final seven minutes of the first half with a 3-pointer to put Santa Cruz up 70-49 at the break.
The Warriors pushed their advantage to 34 in the second half, and cruised to the victory over their former coach Casey Hill, who received his Golden State Warriors NBA championship ring from Santa Cruz General Manager Kent Lacob before the game.
“It was really slow early, and we were just dragging in the mud — both teams,” said Santa Cruz head coach Aaron Miles. “A part of that is the back-to-back…We slowly started getting moving and grooving a little bit. The pace picked up, which is important for us.”
On assignment from Golden State, center Damian Jones finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, a pair of blocks and a massive dunk over Keith Steffeck during the third quarter that drew “oohs” and “ahhs” from the capacity crowd at Kaiser Permanente Arena.
Guard Damion Lee added 16 points and six rebounds, and Winston Shepard chipped in 13 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
James Southerland (12) also scored in double figures for Santa Cruz, which is now a full game behind the South Bay Lakers in the Pacific division.
“It’s a good win for us, but there’s still some bad habits that we have to correct,” Miles said.
Playing in his second game back since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while playing college hoops for Oregon, two-way center Chris Boucher finished with nine points and five rebounds in 15 minutes.
In his limited time on the court, Boucher grabbed an impressive offensive board through a trio of Clippers, and powered through a foul to lay it in. A few seconds later he flew high for an alley-oop, withstood some contact, rolled into the first row, and popped back up without a second thought for his body.
Both were good signs the 6-foot-10 big man is slowly but surely regaining his game.
“I don’t even be thinking about it and I don’t think he thinks about it either — he just plays, he just competes,” Miles said. “As a player I tore my ACL. I know the mental stage you have to get over. That’s big…for his own psyche to know that, ‘man, I’m good.’”