Cal State men cruise past Central Washington

LAS VEGAS – The last thing Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball coach Jeff Oliver wanted was a shootout. His team has not played well on the offensive end of the floor and
opponent Central Washington came in averaging 92.8 points.

It was indeed a shootout, but only one team participated as the Coyotes cruised past the Wildcats 83-60 Tuesday in the Great Western Shootout at the Centennial Hills Center.

The Coyotes’ defense was as tenacious as always, but it was one of the more complete efforts for the No. 10 Coyotes this season as they hit 50.8 percent from the field and came within a point of their season high.

But the perfectionist in Oliver still came out despite the comfortable win.

“It was a great defensive effort. For us to guard a team like that and to limit them like we did was fantastic,” he said.

“Offensively, we’re doing better, but it was far from good. Maybe I’m just a nitpicker.”

The point total was a season low for the Wildcats (3-3) and matched their season low of a year ago. It was also their least-productive outing since 2004, when they were once held to 47.

The Coyotes forced 22 turnovers and held their foe to 34 percent (16-for-47) from the field. Central had 24 points from the free-throw line, meaning they got just 36 from the field.

“I thought they were going to be better than that, just by the numbers they were putting up,” senior center Michael Earl said. “But I guess you can contribute that to us playing well.”

Reggie Brown hit a 3-pointer to give the Coyotes a 45-30 lead three minutes into the second half, and Steve Gaston drained one the next trip down the floor to give Cal State a 48-30 lead that just got bigger.

Oliver used 15 players, and 12 of those scored. Earl led the way with 19, on 8-for-9 shooting from the field, despite being slowed this week by the flu.

Pierce and Lance Ortiz also came up big. Pierce totaled 12 with five assists, four rebounds and two steals, while Ortiz managed 11 with seven assists and four steals. The Coyotes chalked up 21 assists as a team.

There were also some big contributors off the bench; Philip Jones grabbed seven rebounds, and Gaston added seven points, five assists and two steals.

The Coyotes play their second game of the tournament at 5 tonight against Western Washington (7-1), which turned back Cal Poly Pomona 73-64 earlier in the day. Western Washington’s only loss this season was to Cal State in the season opener played in Seattle.