Cougars claw Gators in showdown at the Swamp


Colin Reef

Gators guard, DJ Sylvester, beats his defender to get off an acrobatic pass in the paint to an open teammate ready for a shot in the corner. (Photo by Colin Reef / Golden Gate Xpress)

Colin Reef, Sports Editor

The San Francisco State men’s basketball team fall short against the Cal State San Marcos Cougars in the Main Gym at Don Nasser Family Plaza on Saturday, Jan. 25. The final score was 71-67, marking the Gators second straight loss after previously winning three in a row.“We felt they weren’t ready to go,” Gators guard, Jase Wickliffe said. “So, that helped build the lead up.”

The game starts with Gators guard DJ Sylvester collecting a loose ball from the tip-ff on the Gators side of court. He takes the ball to the rack and slams it home while initiating contact and receiving an and-one call. He drains the free throw, putting the Gators up early on the Cougars 3-0. Sylvester would end the night with 13 points on 4 of 9 field goals in 28 minutes played. He also led the team with 7 rebounds and 4 assists.

The Gators consistent first half shooting from beyond the arc gave them an early edge on the Cougars. Throughout the first ten minutes of the half, the Gators separated themselves by as many as 14 points. After the 3-0 start, the Gators went on a tear notching some threes and putting them up on the Cougars 23-11 mid way into the first half. 

The first half closes with Cougars narrowing the deficit in the final five minutes of the first half. The score going into halftime would have the Gators on a slight advantage 40-33.

“They really didn’t have any interest in playing good defense,” Wickliffe said in regards to the first half. “When we had that dry spell it was because we were doing things outside of our offensive game plan and who we are as a team offensively.”

The second half begins with Cougars guard Blake Seits draining a quick jumper from three point range. On the next possession, Gators big man Linton Acliese, teases his defender with a gentle baby hook from six feet out. Acliese finished the day with a team high 19 points on 8 of 19 shooting from the field in 32 minutes. 

Acliese had been battling different defenders throughout the game including Cougars sophomore forward Darius Goudeau. Referee Brian Harrison spoke with Goudeau about possible offensive fouls on Acliese.

“The two were battling in the post,” Harrison said. “We watched them closely and tried to officiate to the best of our ability.” 

After a follow-up three pointer from Cougars forward Zane Paddon, the Cougars claw their way into game going on an 18-7 run giving them their first lead at 51-47.

The Gators then match the Cougars going on a run of their own. Gators senior forward, Jase Wickliffe takes the ball coast-to-coast attacking the rack with confidence to break the early tie putting his team up 57-55. After a few exchange of buckets by both teams, the Gators find themselves with a narrow lead late in the second half.

Both teams were nearing the foul limit with six a piece with only 7:53 left in the game. Late game ties and lead changes would be exchanged within the last five minutes of the game creating a sense of urgency for both teams.

The Gators would rally back from trailing to the Cougars after a three pointer from Sylvester. The score would sit at 67-66 with only a few minutes remaining in the game. In the time remaining the Cougars shutout the Gators offense leaving them scoreless for the remainder of the game. 

“We didn’t feel like we got beat, we lost the game,” Wickliffe said. “Even coming down to the wire we needed a big-time stop and they got two offensive rebounds which allowed the clock to keep running.”

The Gators go south and hope to bounce back in their Thursday matchup against Cal Poly Pomona.