Tam Duong Jr.
The Cal State East Bay men’s basketball team was fully energized after Thanksgiving on Thursday as they played in the Notre Dame De Namur Thanksgiving Tournament over the weekend.
After having lost two conference games in a row to Cal State LA and San Francisco State, the Pioneers bounced back. In the tournament, the team went 2-0 as they played against the Notre Dame De Namur Argonauts (1-5 overall) and the Holy Names University Hawks (3-5 overall).
On Friday, East Bay faced off against Notre Dame. The team started off strong as sophomore guard Druce Asah made a steal and assisted senior center Kyle Frakes to a layup, which gave the Pioneers the first points of the game. The Pioneers would keep up the strong play as they led 11-3.
The Argonauts eventually found their rhythm and were able to grab a 16-15 lead with 10:29 left on the clock. From that point on, the two teams went back and forth in lead exchanges until Asah hit a free-throw to tie the game 19-19.
East Bay maintained control for the rest of the half and managed to head into halftime on a good note.
In the second half, the Pioneers came out with fire and went on a 17-4 run to open the half. With 14 minutes left, East Bay was up by 20 points after junior guard Jordan Balser drove the ball down the lane and made a layup.
Notre Dame was able to make their way back when they went on a 16-1 run against the Pioneers. This run reduced the lead to three, but was not enough for the Argonauts to take hold of the Pioneers.
East Bay secured a 71-68 win, shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 38.1 percent from the three point line. They also went for a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line in the final minutes of the game, which was vital for them to end the night with a win.
Senior guard Drew Bender led the team with 15 points, as he went 2-for-8 from the field in 24 minutes. Asah was the second leading scorer with 11 points and four rebounds.
The following day, the Pioneers played Holy Names and added another win to their record.
East Bay came out strong once again and went on an 11-2 run to begin the first half. The team is starting to look more and more comfortable every game as they adjust to their new players and coaching staff.Behind the efficiency of Bender who had 13 points in the first half, the Pioneers ended the first half with a 33-26 point lead. Bender had a very strong weekend, being that he was the leading scorer versus Notre Dame and Holy Names.
The Pioneers had a 51.7 shooting percentage from the field in the first half as they went 15-for-14. They struggled from the three point line going only 2-for-8. East Bay managed to lead throughout the entire game with their biggest lead being 16 points.
Freshman guard Keshawn Bruner had a standout performance, going 6-for-7 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free throw line with 21 points in 20 minutes. Bender led all scorers with 23 points.
East Bay earned their second consecutive win as the won 88-75. They now stand at 3-4 overall and 1-2 in conference.
These two games should give them some confidence as they return to conference play in an away game on Thursday Nov. 30 against Cal State San Marcos.