The Gators handled the visiting Cal State Monterey May Otters at The Swamp Saturday night, taking the second game of their season, 60-55.
Both teams came into their second CCAA game looking to rebound from losses in their openers.
“It was a big win for us today. Hopefully we continue to keep it going,” said junior guard Calvin Otiono. “Our communication and will improved (defensively). Once our defense gets better, we’re going to be a great team, because our offense is already great.”
The Gators came out of the gate with a defensive mindset intact. Their defense was stingy over the opening five minutes, not allowing the Otters to convert a single basket from the field.
However, the Otters turned up their shooting after starting off cold in the first half. Three-pointers from Brandon Cole, James Thomas and Coley Apsay capped a 9-2 that saw the sharp shooting Otters take a 29-20 lead with two minutes left in the half. They shot 55 percent from behind the arc in the first half.
Despite trailing at the half, the Gators’ overall defense played with more tenacity in the win. The Otters were kept alive in large part due to their shooting from behind the arc, hitting at a 41 percent clip in three-pointers.
“We made defense our emphasis tonight,” said head coach Paul Trevor. “The problem was that I didn’t think (by) making defense our emphasis that we would struggle to shoot the ball as much. To Monterey’s credit, they did a nice job mixing up defenses.”
The Gators offense did turn up when it was most needed, with a 9-0 run late in the second half that was capped with a crisp pass from junior center Max Fodor to Ottiono, putting the Gators up 56-46, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish despite many Otter attacks.
The Otters’ final threat came off a steal by the Otters’ freshman guard Alex Fertig that started the break, but senior forward Decensae White trailed the play and had a huge key block by with 17 seconds left as the Otters looked to tie. White had eight rebounds on the night.
James Albright, who led both teams with 14 points, said that he felt his team had worked together defensively and that it was the key element to the win.
“(Friday night) we should’ve won, but we didn’t play to our full capability,” Albright said. “We played hard on defense, we rebounded well, we just played hard and competitive.”