By Michelle Gardner
SAN BERNARDINO _ The Cal State San Bernardino mens basketball team knew better than to take Cal Poly Pomona lightly. The Coyotes had lost five straight games to the Broncos including the first this season, one in which the once-proud program has struggled.
But the No. 20 Coyotes (20-5, 13-4) righted that wrong, handing their area rival a 69-58 setback Thursday at Coussoulis Arena.
The win extended the Coyotes ‘ CCAA lead to one and a half games over both defending champion Humboldt State and UC San Diego.
This was the monkey off my back, Cal State coach Jeff Oliver said. I still dont have a good feel on how to attack them but I think were getting closer.
The Broncos (10-12, 9-8), who were picked to finish second in the conference in a preseason poll of member coaches, need one win in their last three games to earn a spot in the eight-team conference tournament. They have lost four of their last six contests.
Jason Gilzene is among the handful of Coyote seniors who had not beaten the Broncos and he came up big with a team-high 17 points, highlighted by 8-for-8 shooting from the field.
We talked about it all day, he said of the Coyotes bad showing against the Broncos recently. We had to get that monkey off our back and it was our last chance to do it. Today the game just came to me.
The Broncos only lead of the first half came at 2-0. The Coyotes biggest lead came at 35-26 on a 3-pointer by Marlon Pierce. They led 36-28 at the intermission.
Cal State then scored five of the first seven points in the second half with a runner by Gilzene giving the Coyotes a 38-28 lead and a 3-pointer by Lance Ortiz extending it to 41-30.
The Coyotes took control midway through the second half. Cal Poly was still in striking distance at 46-39 but Gilzene got the next two buckets, making it 50-39.
Cal State led by as many as 14 twice, the last time coming at 58-44 with 6:57 left only to have the Broncos cut it to single digits with six straight points from the line.
A Cal State turnover led to a bucket by Kyle Krause that closed the gap to seven at 60-53 with 3:01 left but the Coyotes answered on their end with a putback by Gilzene off a Pierce miss, making it 62-53.
The Broncos were also within seven at 62-55 with 2:01 left but Michael Earl scored inside and was fouled on the play. He missed the free throw but the Coyotes corraled the rebound and ran enough time off the clock to put the game away.
Gilzene was followed in the scoring column by Renardo Bass with 13. Pierce had eight points and a team-high six assists.
The Coyotes did an extraordinary job on Broncos junior Larry Gordon, who was second in the conference in scoring and had reached double digits in every game. Gordon scored 12 points but all of those came from the line. He was 0-for-4 from the field.
Angelo Tsagarakis had 19, including four 3-pointers. He made his first four free-throws on the night to extend his streak to 25 straight but missed on his fifth of the night.
The Broncos attempted only 27 shots and were outrebounded 28-17.
Broncos coach Greg Kamansky said the Coyotes bench play made the difference.
Their bench is one of the better ones in the league. I dont know that Olivers saying his team played that much better. Its a late-season game and they got it done.
Added Oliver, We did a good job of knowing where he (Gordon) was and defending him but we didnt do a good job of spotting Tsagarakis.”
UC San Diego (15-7, 11-5), which is one game behind the Coyotes, is the next foe for both teams. The Tritons will play Cal State at Coussoulis Arena tonight, then move on to Kellogg Gymnasium to play the Broncos on Saturday. The Tritons beat both teams in the first round of conference play.