The SF State men’s basketball team (12-7 overall/8-6 in CCAA) won a nail-biter of a game against Cal State University Los Angeles (11-9/7-7 CCAA) on Thursday, Jan. 31, winning 76-74.
Graduate guard Jiday Ugbaja was the hero of the night, knocking down a clutch free throw to give the Gators the lead with just 15 seconds to go in regulation. Ugbaja was the leading scorer for the Gators, tallying 20 points to go along with four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
“Jiday [is] such a dominant on-ball player,” head coach Vince Inglima said after the win. “He reads screens well, he can get to the basket, he’s a great 1-on-1 player.”
Ugbaja has been on fire as of late, dropping 31 points on 8-of-14 shooting in the Jan. 31 win over CSU San Bernardino. Senior center Ryne Williams also came up big for the Gators, notching 14 points and seven rebounds in the win.
SF State trailed by as many as 11 points midway through the second half but clawed their way back to take the lead just before time expired.
“In the second half, in the last 10 minutes, it was gut check,” Inglima said.
The Gators needed one stop to secure the victory, and senior guard/forward Chiefy Ugbaja did just that — stripping the ball from his man in the lane while he was driving to the basket. Chiefy Ugbaja’s defensive presence was welcomed after missing his last five games due to injury.
“We practice that every day,” center Williams said of Chiefy Ugbaja’s defensive stop. “Bluff a cover: When a guy is driving at you out of a corner, quick bluff, make him stop. Chiefy bluffed, poked the ball out. That’s what it’s all about man.”
The Gators came into the game significantly short-handed, dressing just eight players due to various injuries.
“In the end, nobody cares that you’re down on guys or that somebody’s hurt or you’re missing personnel,” Inglima said. “It’s, ‘Did you win or did you lose?’ You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to give it everything you’ve got.”
Williams said, “We had eight guys that were dressed and ready to play. We knew coming into the game it was going to be a struggle. We went down, we battled back, we weren’t getting some calls, but we just kept fighting, man.
“These are season-changing wins,” he said. “These can motivate a team to push through. We’ve got three weeks left — this is a huge win for us.”
The victory puts SF State alone in seventh place in CCAA standings ahead of CSULA. This win could play a factor in a tiebreaker scenario, as SF State has won both matchups this year.