There was jersey grabbing, foul calls, physical on-ball pressure and bodies falling. The Golden Eagles defeated a formidable Cal State San Bernardino team Thursday 75-63.
“You have no choice but to fight. We knew they were going to pound us on the glass,” said head coach Jim Saia on his team’s preparedness for the game.. “Sometimes as a coach you have to find your team, and I found this team and made some changes on the roster, and they bought [in].”
The Coyotes severely out-rebounded the Golden Eagles 57-30, but Cal State LA still prevailed in the end. The black and gold will be fighting for a playoff spot over the next set of games.
The team is currently tied in ninth place with Cal State Monterey Bay, one game back of Cal State Dominguez Hills in seventh place, and a half game back of the eighth placed Cal State San Marcos. The top eight teams make the playoffs, so Cal State LA is currently on the outside looking in.
The win against the “Yotes” also pushed Cal State San Bernardino back into a three-way tie at second with Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona.
The Golden Eagles came into the contest with a strong defensive game plan, deciding to move away from their usual full court pressure. Instead, they went to variations of matchup zones, while still maintaining their physicality and strong on-ball pressure.
The physicality resulted in some foul trouble in the beginning, but also allowed for an energetic style of play. A three from Jordan Rodgers, a second before the end of the half, gave the Golden Eagles a 40-32 halftime lead.
The momentum from the first half carried over into the second as Cal State LA held off every push that Cal State San Bernardino attempted to make. After a series of intentional fouls from the “Yotes” and free throws in the final 47 seconds from guards Khalil Williams and Fard Muhammad, the Golden Eagles solidified the win.
Muhammad recorded his season high, scoring 27 points. Alongside him was guard Shacquille Dawkins with 11 points and forward Ja’Sean Lewis with a double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds).
“We got a lot of seniors on the team. We ain’t got nothing to lose because we got to win. This could be the last [four] games of our college careers. That’s what motivated me, that’s what motivates the team. We have to take it day-by-day. Anything can happen, never give up,” said Muhammad.
The Golden Eagles look to continue their playoff push against a strong Cal Poly Pomona squad. Last time the Golden Eagles faced them, it ended in a 89-69 loss for the birds.
That game will take place at home in the University Gym on Saturday at 3 p.m., where the team will celebrate its senior night.