No. 9 Coyotes surge past Monterey Bay 79-71

SAN BERNARDINO – Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball coach Jeff Oliver said he has tried nine different offenses in the last two weeks looking for one that will work.

The Coyotes made progress there although their trademark defense wasn’t quite as sharp. The end result was still a 79-71 win over a pesky Monterey Bay squad 79-71 Friday at Coussoulis Arena in the CCAA opener for both teams.

“We were better in terms of our spacing and the quality of shots we took,” coach Jeff Oliver said. “But we didn’t share the ball enough. There was too much one-on-one play going on. Too many guys thinking it was their time.”

All were pleased with the win, no matter what the drawbacks. The Otters (1-5, 0-1) are a team that has given the No. 9 Coyotes (6-0, 1-0) fits in the past and the recent showdown was no exception.

“They don’t quit. They just keep playing, whether they’re up by 20 or down by 20,” senior Lance Ortiz said. “They’re always a scarey team to play because you know they aren’t going to go away.”

The Coyotes led by as many as 11 points in the opening half, going up 40-29 on a 3-point play by Marlon Pierce with 1:54 left. But the Otters ran off the last seven points of the half and only trailed 40-36 at the intermission.

Cal State didn’t put the game away until the last six minutes. They were up by just three at 62-59 with 7:15 left when several player figured in the most spectacular play of the night.

Renardo Bass chased down a loose ball, flinging it the air before falling out of bounds. Ortiz, the smallest player on the court, went high in the air at midcourt to snag it, then unleashed a pass to Pierce for a layup that made it 64-59.

Moments later Michael Earl scored inside off a pass from Pierce to give the Coyotes a 76-65 lead with 2:45 left. The host team never looked back.

Pierce netted a season-high 21, 15 of those coming in the first half. Earl contributed 16 with nine rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Ortiz added 11 with eight assists while Reggie Brown came off the bench for 10.

“They were giving Lance (Ortiz) a lot of attention so I think that’s why I had some open shots in the first half,” Pierce said.

“It feels great to be able to contribute. I worked hard on my shot in practice and thought it was coming.”

The Coyotes shot 51.7 percent (30-for-58) while the Otters shot 45.3 (29-for-64). Joe Mitchell tallied 25 with 12 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.

Cal State will be home again tonight, with San Francisco State making a visit for a 7:30 p.m. contest.