By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sonoma State men’s basketball team staged a furious late second-half rally after trailing by 18 points to San Francisco State on Wednesday night, only to lose in the final seconds, 72-70. It was the first loss for the Seawolves in the young California Collegiate Athletic Association season.
Trailing 71-70, SSU came out of a timeout with 13 seconds to play. The Seawolves (3-2, 2-1) worked the ball around to Justin Herold with four seconds to play. Herold had a path to the basket a few feet out on the left side of the key but with a Gators defender bearing down, he tried a floater instead of going hard to the basket. The ball bounced off the rim twice and was rebounded by the Gators (4-3, 2-1) with one second to go, effectively ending the game.
“It was an easy shot. I should have made it,” said Herold, who led SSU with 17 points and 10 rebounds. “I should have just shot it off the glass. I just went up soft. Everyone worked so hard to get in position (to win) and to not come through for them is hard to swallow.”
Said Sonoma State coach Pat Fuscaldo of Herold’s shot: “I thought he would dunk it like he normally does. I don’t know why he floated it. He should have at least gone to the basket and gotten fouled.”
Sonoma State has only itself to blame for the loss as the Seawolves sleepwalked for two-thirds of the game and trailed 54-36 with 14:15 to play.
“It was an ugly game for 26 minutes … we should have never gotten down like that,” Fuscaldo said. “They (SF State) were killing us. It seemed like they had eight guys out there.”
Just as the Seawolves appeared to be down and out, they rallied for 13 straight points to narrow the Gators’ lead to 64-60 with 5:49 to play.
“We found the right combination of guys that could guard against their athletes,” Fuscaldo said. “They cooled off and we were taking really good shots (during the rally).”
SSU hurt itself with poor free-throw shooting (8-18).
“It’s hard to beat anybody when you shoot free throws like that,” Fuscaldo said.
Things started favorably for the Seawolves, who took a 17-12 lead eight minutes into the game, highlighted by four 3-pointers. The Gators, however, forged ahead with 11 straight points to take a 23-17 lead with 8:50 to play in the first half. During the Gators’ run, guard Calvin Otiono scored seven consecutive points. Otiono finished with 22 points.
The Seawolves started the second half in a daze and were outscored 16-7 in the first six minutes. SF State blitzed the Seawolves with slashing attacks to the basket, combined with 3-point sharpshooting.
“They are more athletic than we are and have way better quickness,” Fuscaldo said.
SSU’s Patrick Scott (23.3 ppg average) was bottled up most of the game and was held to 12 points.
“They did a good job guarding Scott tonight,” Fuscaldo said. “(Emmanuel) Bradford (10 points) did a good job tonight and he did most of it from the wing.”
The Seawolves held a 32-13 edge in scoring off the bench and a 36-24 advantage for points in the paint.
In the end, SSU, to its credit, didn’t fold and came within one missed shot of an amazing win.
“To come back from being down 18 points shows that our team has a lot of heart,” Herold said.