With a third of their season behind them, the SF State men’s basketball team currently sits at 6-3 on the season and 3-2 in the CCAA conference play.
It’s a one game improvement for the Gators compared to last season through nine games.
Led by a defensive-minded team effort, the Gators have the eighth-best scoring defense in the nation, holding opponents to 62.6 points per game.
Among the CCAA, SF State leads the conference in defense with 63.1 points allowed on average.
The Gators’ elite defense also boasts the third-best defensive field goal percentage in the nation, allowing opponents to shoot a stifling 37.1 percent from the field. Conference opponent Cal Poly Pomona ranks fifth in the nation.
“We continue to defend at an incredibly high-level,” said head coach Vince Inglima. “We communicate, we contest shots and we’re really proud of that effort.”
Perhaps the highlight of their season so far this season, SF State held conference opponents Chico State to 28.8 percent shooting from the field in their 65-49 win on Dec. 1.
The dominant win against Chico State is a major victory for the Gators because Chico State is favored as the third-best team to come out of the CCAA. The Wildcats have long been a powerhouse in the conference, with five-straight 20-win seasons.
Not only was it the second game of this season the Gators held an opponent to under 30 percent shooting, it was the second-consecutive game that the team held Chico State to under 30 percent shooting.
SF State has been dominant on the defensive end, having held opponents to under 40 percent shooting in five of their nine outings. The team has yet to allow any team to shoot over 50 percent from the field, with UC San Diego’s 49.2 percent the most given up.
“The big indicator of how successful we’re going to be this year is how well we can defend and rebound in the halfcourt,” Inglima said. “There’s a lot of different guys who contribute to that.”
Offensively for the Gators, senior center Ryne Williams paced the program in scoring, rebounds and threes made. He also leads the Gators in blocks.
“On the defensive end, it’s key for me to stay active and it’s always great to get a good amount of blocks,” Williams said. “Using my length to alter shots at the rim and block shots only adds to our team defense and helps me contribute on both ends.”
Williams, the reigning CCAA Player of the Week, is averaging 14.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks for the Gators. He’s knocking down 2.5 three-pointers a game on 39 percent shooting from deep. The seven-footer has nearly twice the amount of threes made (23) than the next Gator, junior Jase Wickliffe (12).
After a slow start to the season, graduate transfer guard Jiday Ugbaja has finally started to find his rhythm for the Gators. He averaged 14.8 points in his past four games, with a career-high-tying 18 points in a 79-80 loss against No. 10 UC San Diego. On the season, he’s averaging 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 41 percent shooting from the field.
Senior swingman Chiefy Ugbaja has been a menace as always on defense for SF State, averaging 2.7 steals to pair with nearly a block a game. He’s also grabbing 6.4 rebounds a night for the Gators, second-best on the team.
The Ugbaja cousins combined register four steals a night for the Gators, with Jiday averaging 1.3 to pair with Chiefy’s 2.7.
After hitting the road for a two-game road trip, SF State will once again have a three-game homestand that kicks off Thursday, Dec. 13, against Cal State San Bernardino (4-3/1-2 CCAA) at 7:30 p.m. at The Swamp.
The game will be during Student Study Break, ahead of final examinations, where students can win prizes and free pizza during timeouts and halftime.