Men’s Basketball Exhibit “Growing Pains” In Home Opener Loss

Jared Darling, Sports Photographer

California State University, East Bay Men’s Basketball team played their first home game of the season, resulting in a 67-85 home loss against the Academy of Art, Urban Knights in a non-conference contest on Nov. 16, 2022.

The Wednesday contest featured East Bay’s revamped starting lineup in their home debut, with all five starters entering their first season for CSUEB. Each starter showed a brief, promising glimpse of what the fans can expect to see when the team hits its stride.

The game began with an early CSUEB lead, though the Urban Knights soon recovered. Both teams were looking to push the pace of play and get points on the board quickly.

The first half of the game was neck-and-neck as both teams were on par with one another, neither were able to gain a significant lead. The half ended with CSUEB carrying a slim five-point lead into the second half, seemingly poised to extend the lead.

University of California, Berkeley transfer Dimitrios Klonaras led the Pioneers in points during the first half, impressing audiences with his first performance since enrolling at CSUEB.

The Urban Knights initiated the second half with an explosive opener. By the fifth minute of the second half, the Urban Knights outpaced the Pioneers, thwarting CSUEB’s attempt to maintain its narrow lead. Soon after the Knights grabbed the lead, CSUEB experienced a sustained scoring drought, during which the Pioneers could not take the lid off the basket for nearly five minutes. A layup by freshman Payden White finally ended the scoring drought, but the Knights had extended their advantage to nine points by then. The Pioneers were stuck in a rut as the team’s offense couldn’t penetrate the Knights’ defense and their defense failed to counter the Knights’ aggressive approach.

With the second half ending in a devastating 18-point loss for the Pioneers, missed opportunities and fouls were recurring themes. While CSUEB floundered multiple opportunities at the rim, foul trouble was a more pressing issue for the team in the second half as the Pioneers enabled the Knights to increase their lead with 23 free throws, compared to the Pioneers’ six.

Head coach Bryan Rooney attributes this loss to “growing pains” as the newcomers adjust to their teammates. Keen on celebrating the successes of their first home game, Rooney was encouraged to see his team fight during the first half and believes that the Pioneers can get back on track.

“There were some bright spots, especially in the first half with how we fought. Unfortunately, we did not sustain the momentum into the second half. I really like our team and truly believe we can develop into being very good as the season unfolds,” remarked Rooney.

The “second-half lull” has been a common phenomenon for CSUEB teams throughout the Fall 2022 season, but Klonaras is confident that Rooney’s coaching and team perseverance will right the ship. “One of the major things we are working to fix right now is our second-half performance,” however, “I believe a lot in this team and I am sure coach Rooney will have us ready for the next game,” commented Klonaras.

Despite the disappointing loss, the fans’ radiating energy gave the Pioneers the motivation they needed to finish with grace. Fan enthusiasm did not go unnoticed by Rooney and Klonaras, with Rooney encouraging the fans to show up in full force for the Pioneers’ next home game. “The crowd was awesome tonight and we look forward to having everyone back on December 1st when we open up conference play,” concluded Rooney.