Junior forward Wonder Smith is leading the Toros in minutes this season, averaging just over 29 a game. Photo by Glenn Marshall
By Jeremy Gonzalez, Assistant Sports Editor
The CSUDH men’s basketball team have qualified for their third straight postseason berth and will be facing Cal State East Bay on the road in the first round of the California Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs on Tuesday March 5.
In the previous two seasons, the Toros were eliminated in the opening round by Chico State in 2017 and Cal Poly Pomona in 2018. The Toros are looking to avoid a one-and-done playoff scenario by overcoming a Pioneers team that was among the top teams of the conference for a majority of the regular season.
The Toros are coming in as the sixth best team in the conference, finishing the regular season with a 14-13 overall record and a conference record of 12-10. Cal State East Bay finished with an overall record of 21-7 while going 16-6 in conference play, good for third placd.
The Toros lost their conference opener against the Pioneers on the road, losing by 13 points. They played at the Torodome later in the season, where the Toros suffered a tough loss to the Pioneers, losing 72-74.
Both the Toros and Pioneers ended the regular season on two-game losing streaks. The Toros enter the playoff game averaging the third highest points per game in the conference (75.7), with the Pioneers averaging 72.6 points per game, good for seventh best in the conference.
One edge the Pioneers have over the Toros is on the defensive side of the ball. Cal State East Bay has the third best defense in the conference, only allowing opponents an average of 67.1 points per game. The Toros posted the second worst defense in the CCAA, allowing opponents an average of 76.6 points per game.
Cal State East Bay has four players that averaged double figure points throughout the regular season: senior Juwan Anderson (11.7 ppg), senior Evan Wardlow (12.0 ppg), sophomore Nai Carlisle (12.1 ppg), and junior Ant Navarrete (12.4 ppg). Navarrete also led the Pioneers in rebounds and finished the regular season shooting 52.1 percent from the field, posting the second best mark in the conference. He also shot 37 percent from behind the arc.
The Toros also have four players that averaged double figure points in the regular season: sophomore Colten Kresl (12.7 ppg), junior Wonder Smith (12.0 ppg), senior Jayvon Brown (10.4 ppg), and senior David Howard (10.2 ppg). Kresl ranks in the top five 3-point shooters in the conference, boasting 41.7 percent when shooting from behind the arc.
Tip-off for the Toros and Pioneers is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The winner of this matchup will face the winner of the matchup between No. 2 UC San Diego & No. 7 Cal State San Bernardino.