Men’s basketball narrowly defeats nationally ranked Cal State LA

By Cesar Rivas, Feb. 6, 2024

After a devastating overtime loss to Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball looked to bounce back against the 25th-ranked Cal State LA Golden Eagles Saturday, Jan. 27.  The game came down to the wire as the Broncos bested the Golden Eagles with a final score of 70-67.

Coming into the contest, the Broncos were 4-8 in conference play despite playing well in recent games, while the Golden Eagles were 9-3 and in the top two of the conference standings.

“It was a great team effort; I’m proud of our offense,” said Broncos head coach Greg Kamansky. “We’re scoring the basketball finally; we weren’t doing that the first few months of the season.”

Cal State LA won the opening tip and both teams traded baskets in the opening minutes of the game. Three minutes into the game, the Broncos gained an early lead by getting defensive stops and shooting the lights out.

The Broncos went on a 17-2 run across six minutes of play. Broncos forward Brandon Porter started the run with a 3-pointer and continued to have a hot hand. Porter shot 5-6 from behind the arc in the first half. The Broncos shot 59% from the field and made seven 3-point shots in the half.

However, it wasn’t just Porter’s hot hand, as forward Michael Ofoegbu registered seven points and four rebounds, guard Malachi Murrell recorded seven points with three rebounds and guard Chris Gayles Jr. recorded three assists and five rebounds in the first half.

The Broncos’ zone defense proved to be effective, holding the Golden Eagles’ season-leading scorer, guard Shane Bell, to only four of his six shots in the half.

“This whole week we had been focusing on our defense,” said Murrell. “Last game we were able to put up points. The points are coming, so now we are just focused on our defense.”

The Golden Eagles stuck around toward the end of the half, as both teams were trading baskets, but the early lead for the Broncos was too much. CPP went into halftime leading the Golden Eagles 43-32.

Despite Cal State LA holding a solid lead at halftime, the second half would be a nail-biter.

Golden Eagle forward Eche Okeke came alive in the second half, scoring 15 points and collecting seven rebounds.

“They were being more aggressive off the dribble, we were trying to protect the 3-point line, and they caught us with our hands down driving to the paint,” said Kamansky. “We were focusing on taking away their 3s as much as we can, that was the goal.”

Cal State LA took the lead with under two minutes left in the game after forward Corey Cofield made back-to-back free throws to give the Golden Eagles a one-point lead.

With the result of the match now up in the air, both teams fell into foul trouble as they desperately attempted to clinch a narrow victory.

Two fouls on consecutive CPP attacks gave the Broncos back-to-back trips to the charity stripe, where Ofoegbu and Murrell sank all their free throws to give CPP a 3-point lead. While Bell was able to keep Cal State LA in the game with two free throws of his own, the game looked settled when Murrell earned yet another trip to the charity stripe.

But just as CPP looked set to secure their win, Murrell missed both of his free throws. In the end, Bronco forward Kevin Simeth clutched up, grabbed the rebound and found Murrell for an explosive dunk to keep CPP up by three.

“Honestly, it was a blur,” said Murrell. “Missed my two free throws, but my teammate Kev came up with a great rebound. He passed it to me, and I just finished it with a dunk, got back on defense, and got the last stop to finish the game.”

The Golden Eagles inbounded the ball and hustled down the court looking for the equalizing basket. But with the game clock dwindling down, the Broncos alert defense forced a poor shot as time expired to secure a 70-67 victory.

“For the most part, I feel like we’ve been beating ourselves,” said Murrell. “So now we are starting to focus and realize that we could be a top team in this league, and as long as we stick together, it’ll work out.”

The Broncos continued their run of form with a 71-56 win over Cal State San Marcos Thursday, Feb. 1, before breaking their streak with a narrow 55-53 loss to Sonoma State Saturday, Feb. 3. CPP will next face Chico State at home this Thursday, Feb. 8.

Feature image by Alexander Novoa

Verified by MonsterInsights