Coyotes come from behind to beat Western Washington 71-65

LAS VEGAS _ The Cal State San Bernardino men’s basketball team has not been invited back to the Great Western Shootout in Las Vegas. The fact the Coyotes keep beating up on the host teams might have something to do with it.

The No. 10 Coyotes turned in another strong performance Wednesday night, upending Western Washington 71-65 at the Centennial Hills Center behind the play of tournament Most Valuable Player Michael Earl. That came one night after they routed the other host team Central Washington 83-60.

“They said there was some sort of miscommunication. They didn’t think we wanted to come back,” said Oliver, who will be looking to start his own event to be held the same event next year.

Not only have the Coyotes beaten both teams in successive years. They also beat Western Washington in its season opener in another tournament in Seattle in early Novemeber. The Coyotes (9-1) have handed the Vikings (7-2) both losses.

But both teams played better basketball in the most recent meeting. The Vikings came out quicker and were up by 13 at 32-19 with 8:33 to go. It was Fontana native Ira Graham igniting the charge with 16 of his 22 in the opening half.

“We seem to have some lapses and tonight we started with one,” Earl said. “They came out pretty amped up and we weren’t. We didn’t come out with the same energy we had. But we thought if we could stay close we would get them once we settled down and started playing our
game.”

The Coyotes battled back and only trailed by three at the half, 37-34.

It was nip and tuck the rest of the way with each team’s biggest lead of the half being three points. The game was knotted five times, the last at 65 with 1:51 to go after two free throws by Lance Ortiz.

Cal State went up for good moments later on a driving layup by Marlon Pierce with 1:27 to go. On the ensuing possession Graham took the ball and dribbled baseline but was called for stepping on the end line with 1:01 left.

“I really thought I was pushed out,” said Graham, who made the six-player all-tournament team. “But that’s not an excuse. That’s how basketball goes. We just made some mistakes dwn the stretch that hurt us.”

The Coyotes capitalized with Ortiz working time off the clock, then going baseline for a layup that gave Cal State a 69-65 edge with 24 seconds remaining.

Western Washington’s Harold McAllister set up for a 3-pointer on the next Vikings possession but his shot was batted away by Jason Gilzene with 13 seconds left. Ortiz knocked down a couple of free throws to put the game away.

Oliver appreciated coming out on top against a quality team in a tightly-contestd game. He also liked the way his team bounced back after being dealt a loss by NAIA Azusa Pacific on Friday.

“It was the wakeup call we needed,” he said. “I felt like we were regressing, not progressing and getting too complacent. Sometimes I think this team thinks it’s going to be too easy and that’s a mentality a team should never have or comes back to bit you in the butt.”

Earl tallied a team-high 16 points with six blocks. Pierce had 10, with eight rebounds, four steals and three assists to earn an all-tournament spot. Scoring was balanced after that with Reggie Brown and Renardo Bass and Ortiz chipping in with eight apiece. livcer used 11 players and 10 figured in the scoring.

Western shot 49 percent (25-for-51) while Cal State was slightly worse at 45.5 (25-for-55). It made up for that by going 18-for-22 from the free-throw line. The Coyotes were outrebounded 35-27 but forced 19 turnovers while making only nine.

“We really don’t have one person that has to be our go-to player. We have a lot of options,” Earl said. “That is good for us because no one has to have that pressure. We’re confident in each other.”

Oliver said he believed that Cal Poly Pomona was invited back to the CCAA vs. GNAC event with Cal State Stanislaus, traditionally a middle tier team, replacing the Coyotes.

Cal State men punish Central Washington 83-60

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 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 held to 47 once.

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 so 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.”

Cal State blew the game open in the second half. It was even at 12 but the Coyotes tallied 10 of the next 12 points, surging out to a 24-14 lead on a driving layup by Marlon Pierce. The first half ended with the same point differential, the Coyotes up 39-29.

The Coyotes started the second half the way they ended the first. 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 as Philip Jones grabbed seven rebounds. Gaston added seven points, five assists and two steals.

All said the team came off Friday’s 78-75 overtime loss to NAIA Azusa Pacific more focused.

“We worked on passing the ball hard. We had gotten lackadaisical and were not getting guys open,” Ortiz said. “We came in here focused, ready to bounce back because we knew these were big games.”

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.