The SF State men’s basketball team handily defeated Cal State San Marcos, 87-60, behind career nights from junior forward Jase Wickliffe and senior guard/forward Chiefy Ugbaja on Thursday, Feb. 21.
“I was just getting open looks and my teammates were looking for me,” said Wickliffe, who knocked down six 3-pointers on the night. “Tonight it kind of just started falling. It felt good.”
Wickliffe finished the game with a career-high 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-10 from downtown and a nasty dunk with eight minutes left in the second half. San Marcos continued to give Wickliffe an inch of daylight behind the 3-point line and he made them pay for it.
“That dude’s a scorer,” said senior center Ryne Williams of his teammate. “Seeing him grow up and maturing in this program from a young kid, he’s turned into a really, really good player. If he’s hitting like that, we’re going to be in a good position down the stretch.”
It was a tale of two halves for the Gators; after finishing the first half with a two-point lead, SF State dominated the Cougars in the second half, outscoring them 50-25.
“We wore on them,” said head coach Vince Inglima of his team’s second-half dominance. “Our intensity level stayed high all game. We executed the defensive gameplan. We were able to finally have that breakout sequence offensively and because we had been playing such good defense, it put the game away.”
Among the Gators who executed this defensive game plan was, as usual, senior guard/forward Chiefy Ugbaja, who became SF State’s all-time steals leader on Thursday night after notching his 153rd career strip. Ugbaja’s eye for passing lanes and athleticism have made him the Gators’ premier perimeter defender in his five years with the team.
“The dude has just always got a hand in the passing lane,” Williams said of Ugbaja. “He’s probably one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The kid just knows how to play defense.”
“That guy is probably the most athletic basketball player I’ve ever played with,” said junior forward Zane Paddon. “Crazy hands. He’s really the best on-ball defender I’ve ever seen.”
The praise didn’t stop for Ugbaja on his career-night.
“If you put him in an NBA game and he just had to guard the ball, he’d be perfectly capable,” said Inglima. “He would fit in just perfectly.”
With the Thursday night win, the Gators maintain fourth place in the CCAA standings for the time being and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs along with it. SF State will face the UC San Diego Tritons, who are currently in third place, on Saturday, February 23rd, from The Swamp.
Photo Courtesy of SF State Athletics/Brandon Davis