The Gators opened up CCAA play against the Cal State East Bay Pioneers Friday night in a fiercely competitive match that ended 80-76 to the Pioneers.
The game had the makings of a prizefight, with both teams striking heavy blows early on, only to be put on the ropes by the other.
“We didn’t make plays when it counted,” head coach Paul Trevor said. “Credit to (CSU) East Bay, they made some big shots. They made a lot of plays.”
The Pioneers were able to outshoot the Gators when it mattered. Sophomore guard Jacari Whitfield made the Gators pay with his team high 15 points — his three ended a Gators threat.
The Pioneers dominated most of the game until the end of the half.
A ferocious putback by Tatum put capitalized the first half, where the teams traded blows. The Gators stole the lead at the half with 46-43.
Senior forward Decensae White was key in the first half, shooting 75 percent from behind the arc. The Gators shot 39 percent from three-point land; the Pioneers shot at a 49 percent clip.
“I like how we stayed together and played as a team,” junior William Overton, Jr. said. “We got a lot of players who can score. We just have to play together as a unit and play better.”
The Gators fought early on in the second with big plays coming from sophomore Andre Jones and senior Winston Demmin. Jones scored five points along with some from Demmin and Herndon that fueled a 9-0 run that gave the Gators a temporary 60-53 lead.
According to junior forward Brandon Tatum, the team played better than before, saying they played better in spurts, hoping to expand on those moments.
“We have a team with great length and great ability,” Tatum said. “It’s just about sustaining it, and not being content with a lead and keeping that killer instinct.”
The Gators play again Saturday night against the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters.