1,000 fans packed The Swamp Friday night and went home happy after the men’s basketball team beat California State University, Los Angeles 87-78.
The highlight of the game for the Gators was their 49 percent field goal shooting and 50 percent from three point range.
This scoring explosion was led by graduate shooting guard Evan Zeller. Zeller only missed one shot from the field the entire game and hit five three pointers.
“My teammates, they just find me when I’m open, and I’m going to knock [the three pointers] down for them,” Zeller said. “So, as long as they find me, I’m going to hit [the shots] as much as I can.”
The assists were pouring in from all over the court. Senior point guard Warren Jackson led the team with five assists and senior power forward Jash Kahlon added three more.
The Gators were locked in from the opening tip and held a 44-35 lead at halftime. Jackson and Zeller led the team with double-digit scoring.
SF State locked in their defensive intensity even more in the second half. This helped expand their lead to as many as twenty points with 8:43 left in the game. The team had eight blocks and nine steals in the game, which resulted in 17 points off turnovers.
No one was stronger on defense than Chiefy Ugbaja, since he led the team with four blocks and five steals.
“They served [the blocks] up for me on a platter, so I just had to take it, it was just right there for me,” Ugbaja said. “I just really wanted to make big plays. I knew this was a big game, the energy from the crowd was great all night, so I wanted to give them some kind of show.”
However, after the team held their largest lead at 70-50. The Golden Eagles stormed back on the strength of a 14-0 run as the game entered the final minutes. The lead was even cut to just two with around four minutes left before Jackson and Zeller hit a couple huge shots to ice the game for the Gators.
Interim head coach Vince Inglima was quite satisfied with this closing effort.
“We got a little sloppy, and that got them back in the game. We need to tighten that up,” Inglima said. “But Warren made some really big plays down the stretch and he’s been our guy for a while now and that’s his job…to make those big plays for us.
Jackson truly fed off of the crowd’s energy and pumped the packed house even more by waving his arms to encourage the elation in the final minute.
The Gators played with an unmatched intensity that they will look to match in tonight’s game against California State University, Dominguez Hills.