SAN BERNARDINO – Maybe the last thing the Cal State San Bernardino team needed was to be on national television. Coach Jeff Oliver criticized his team’s selfish play early in the season and being on television lended itself to that.
But the Coyotes surged past Cal State Los Angeles 74-65 in front of 1,301 Saturday at Coussoulis Arena. The win allows the Coyotes (11-7, 9-3) to remain tied for first place in the CCAA.
“I think the guys did a good job of handling that,” Oliver said.
“I didn’t see a change in their style of play or their demeanor. They didn’t play to the cameras. So maybe we’re past the selfish thing. It was good to see.”
While Oliver admitted it was nice to have the commotion of the television came behind them, the players admitted they enjoyed their moment in the spotlight.
“TV is always good,” beamed big man Brandon Brown, who delivered 24 points, five rebounds and four assists for family and friends watching at home in New Orleans.
Television didn’t exactly bring out the best in the Coyotes. Oliver chalked that up to the physically and emotionally draining game the previous night against Dominguez Hills.
The Coyotes led 36-26 at the half but never put away the pesky Eagles (10-9, 5-7), who were playing without leading scorer Chris Field, who pulled a hamstring at Cal Poly Pomona on Friday.
Cal State’s biggest lead was in the second half was 13 for the last time at 46-33 on a driving layup by Brown.
The Eagles made their move with six minutes left and both Brown and DuBois Williams on the bench with four fouls. A 3-pointer by Dwayne Jones made it 60-54. They soon got within two at 61-59 on another Jones three with 3:35 to go.
But Brown hit two free throws to up the lead to four. Christopher Hart misfired at the Eagles end and Devin Montgomery grabbed the rebound. It paid off as the Coyotes converted with Brown scoring inside to make it 65-59.
A 3-pointer by Montgomery with 1:02 left sealed it at 68-61.
“When it’s that close its all about a couple of big stops at the end,” Williams said. “A tip here, a rebound there. Just some little things.”
The Coyotes shot 50 percent (25-for-50) while the Eagles shot 43.1 (22-for-51). Cal State was beaten on the boards 36-27 but made up for that by forcing 15 turnovers.
Brown was followed by Williams (13), Michael Frazier (11) and Montgomery (10). Williams also collected five assists. Tim Deson managed nine points and four steals.
“I thought we were just a step slow all night but we found a way,” Oliver said. “We just couldn’t shake them. We weren’t as good defensively and not as good on the glass which has pretty much been our MO when we lost. But we found a way.”
The Coyotes will finish with six of their last eight conference games on the road. Next weekend they will play at Chico State and Cal State Stanislaus.