Men’s basketball falls short in non-conference home game

Evan Zeller (#3) rises for a basket against Pacific Union defenders at the SF State Gymnasium on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. Zeller finished with a game high of 21 points and 3 rebounds. (Mitchell Mylius/Golden Gate Xpress)

The San Francisco State University men’s basketball team came up short in a back-and-forth bi-yearly matchup against the Pacific Union Pioneers on Nov. 25.

This was the first game for the Gators at home.

The Gators were off to a slow start. The Pioneers led the Gators by 10 at one point in the first half. But, after a layup by Brantley Bynum and a couple of three pointers by Evan Zeller and Warren Jackson, they were jawing at the visitors.

A couple of turnovers gave the Gators a seven point lead just four minutes before the half, but the Pioneers stayed strong and were able to drop a three pointer and a few free throws, tying the game at 36 at the half.

“We dug ourselves into a hole in the first half,” said Vince Inglima, interim head coach of the men’s basketball team. “We came out with no energy and that breathed some life into their offense.”

The Gators strengthened their game in the second half with an 11-0 run. The Pioneers stayed persistent. Rae Hubbard of Pacific Union scored back-to-back three pointers and kept his team in the running. After three free throws from Zeller, the Gators were able to stay afloat and a three pointer by Zeller put the lead back to eight with nine minutes to play.

With two minutes to play and the Pioneers up 75-74, Bynum was sent to the line to knock down two free throws, bringing the Gators up by one point. Then Jayson Marquez put a three-point shot, sealing the lead.

After Warren Jackson converted two free throws, the Gators trailed 80-79. With a minute to go, they needed a stop bad.

Junior Forward Chiefy Ugbaja came up with a block, but Jackson’s attempt at a three pointer did not fall. Then with seconds left, Ugbaja intercepted a pass and was on his way to dropping in a layup,  but was called for a charge. Ugbaja finished with 16 points and two steals.

“In the end, that game was lost in our preparation,” Inglima told SF State Athletics. “It’s a hard, but good lesson. It’s not how you want to open up your home court. I’m hoping that we can take from this what we can and grow.”

“We definitely didn’t play our hardest, that’s for sure,” said Ryne Williams after the game.

This game does not count toward the Gator’s NCAA conference record. The Purple Out IV game against California State University, Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 1 will.