TURLOCK — San Francisco State did everything it wanted to on defense Friday night.
The Gators’ goal was to keep Cal State Stanislaus center Marcus Bell from dominating the scoreboard, and they were successful, holding the senior from Enochs High to five shots.
Yet in the end it only meant that San Francisco picked its poison, as the Warriors went elsewhere for offense to post a 66-61 victory at Fitzpatrick Arena.
“We still had four guys in double figures and that’s the balance we want,” said guard Clinton Tremelling, who came off the bench to score 11 points on four-of-five shooting.
“We were able to do that in the last homestand also, and we got away from that on the road when we picked up the two losses. It’s always good to come back here, especially this season.”
Yes, Stanislaus continues to thrive at home, where they are perfect in nine games and stand 12-5 overall, 8-5 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
The Warriors will try to keep that streak alive tonight when they host Sonoma State, currently the CCAA’s bottom-feeder.
Stanislaus is facing a very tangible goal. It will enter the game against the Seawolves no worse than in a tie for fourth in the CCAA, which for the first time will invite its top six teams to a single-venue conference tournament (Ontario’s Citizens Bank Arena) at season’s end.
The race to be one of those six was at the forefront of the battle against the Gators, who fell to 9-7 overall and 7-6 overall, a game behind Stanislaus. Had San Francisco won, it would have been a game ahead of the Warriors with a series sweep in hand, having defeated Stanislaus 71-56 in December.
“You can’t lose to the teams at home that you’re fighting with to reach the playoffs,” said coach Larry Reynolds. “Everybody wants to survive to get into the six, and it’s going to be a dogfight for the last four spots.”
It made Friday’s victory not only huge in the conference race, but big for the Warriors in that they got the win despite Bell being held well below his season average.
Bell still finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, and the extra attention paid to the big man opened space for Chris Read to slash for 18 points and forward Rob Walters to notch 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“They sagged on Marcus with that zone and you don’t exactly think about it, but he gets other guys shots just because of his presence in there,” Reynolds said.
“In the college game, other teams can sag and stand in the way and clog the key and do all of those things. It means that Marcus has to be patient and he did a lot of good things tonight to get other guys some scores.”
Bell was credited with only two assists, but the pass that created the open look more often than not was two or three passes away from the post. That exceptional ball movement allowed Stanislaus to be credited with 19 assists on its 22 field goals.
The Warriors took control of the game with a 17-5 run midway through the second half that turned a 40-35 lead into a 57-40 advantage with 8:02 remaining. Bell and Read had five points during the run, with was spurred by the Stanislaus defense.
In the loss at San Francisco, the Warriors allowed guard Nefi Perdomo, a senior from Oakland, to drive at will en route to 27 points. This time around, Perdomo scored 10 points while getting only eight shots.
“The coaches emphasized packing in the paint on defense all week to make them beat us from the outside,” Tremelling said. “When they beat us at their place they penetrated really well on us and got to the line a lot.”
The Gators only were able to creep back to the final five-point margin of victory because the Warriors missed eight of their final 13 free throws.
But by that time the win was in hand, bringing the Warriors one step closer to Ontario, where the survivor will receive the CCAA’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division II Tournament.
“There is a gap between the sixth and seventh teams in our league right now, but we’re trying to put ourselves in the number three or four range,” Tremelling said. “Everybody in the top six is going to have a chance in the CCAA Tournament.”