The SF State Gators brushed off a slow start and went on an offensive tear in the second half, beating the Cal State East Bay Pioneers 80-65. The victory improved their record to 8-0, which marks the best start in the team’s history since the 1941-42 season.
According to head coach Paul Trevor, it was a special win for them.
“Tonight was the first time we took it on the chin early, faced some adversity and had to fight our way back out of the hole,” Trevor said. “We’ve been up every game this year and tonight was the first time where the opposition came out really good and we responded.”
Trailing by as many as 16 points in the first half, the Gators were in uncharted territory. They did not hold back as they fought their way back in the game by tightening their defense and cutting their deficits to eight points at halftime.
“I think it was a little bit of fatigue from last night’s game,” Trevor said. We didn’t come out and match their energy and then we started feeling it and turned it up in the second half. .
The Gators’ guards Coley Apsay, Warren Jackson and Chiefy Ugbaja took over in the second half. They led the team to a 12-2 run in the opening frame to take their first lead of the game and combined for 33 out of 50 points in the second half. The Gators never looked back when they took the lead, which ballooned to as many as 20 points.
“Everybody on the court we know can play,” Jackson said. “Overall it’s about playing as a team, buckling down, playing good defense and trusting your teammates. If we do that every time, we’ll get the win.
A major key to the Gators’ second half success were points off turnovers. They scored 17 points off ten forced turnovers in the second half compared to only six points in the first half.
“To come out of the second half and punch them in the mouth like they punch us in the first half was good for us,” Apsay said.
Trevor said he is proud of how his team adjusted from a disappointing start to the game and praised Jackson and Apsay’s performance, but he’d like to give the game ball to Ugbaja.
“I think that tonight Chiefy really blossomed. He found a nice matchup and was able to finish at the rim,” Trevor said. “He was explosive, aggressive and outstanding tonight. Chiefy was the difference maker.”
The Gators will have a huge test in an exhibition game against University of San Francisco, a Division I team, on Dec. 6. And they look to maintain their unblemished record when they hit the road against Sonoma State University on Dec. 9.