Coyotes battle UCLA to the wire

The Cal State San Bernardino basketball team gave the UCLA Bruins all they wanted before falling 80-72 Sunday at Citizens Bank Arena. The Coyote even led 70-68 with 7:23 left but then came three straight turnovers and they were never in front again.

Coach Jeff Oliver should be pleased. His team hustled and played hard. It had too. The Coyotes are big by Division II standards but the Bruins are just plain big. At 6-10, 305 pounds, sophomore Joshua Smith is a small house.

He scored 26 points with seven rebounds and three blocks. Reeves Nelson had a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards.

Of course the little Division II team wasn’t going to get any calls. The Bruins went to the free-throw line 41 times (making 33) while the Coyotes had 21 tries (making 15).  So the Coyotes outshot UCLA from the field.

Two calls were highly suspect. With UCLA up 67-61with 4:47 left Cal State’s Tre Brewer connected on a runner in the lane.

Then down 76-70 with 1:20 left Hakeem Washington got called for a charge.

Oh well, it was a good try.

Oliver’s big men loomed large. Theron Laudermill tallied 16 points and six boards while D.J. Shumpert added 14 points , seven rebounds and five blocks. His game has really progressed from last year which ended with him sidelined with academic issues.

Brewer and Kwame Alexander each had nine before fouling out. Alexander’s fifth foul came while defending Smith with 5:11 left while Brewer departed after that charging call.

So it looks like the Coyotes should be right in the mix for a CCAA title.

The regular season tips off on Friday with Cal State squaring off Westmont at 7 p.m. It will be a night of quality competition with the Cal State volleyball team starting things off with a 5 p.m. match against Cal State Monterey Bay.