Cal Poly Men’s Basketball remains in last place in the Big West Conference after losing 63-53 to UC Davis in Mott Athletics Center Thursday, Feb. 7. UC Davis (7-14, 3-4 Big West) held a comfortable lead for most of the game, but Cal Poly (5-16, 1-7) had multiple runs that put them in position to take the lead. This was the Aggies second on the road win this season, improving their away record to 2-10.
Head coach Joe Callero made changes to the starting lineup by starting redshirt freshman guard Jared Rice and junior guard Job Alexander after struggling defensively in the previous game to CSUN. This was Rice’s first career start for the Mustangs.
“When we play man to man, we needed the quickness to get out to the shooters,” Callero said. “We wanted to go with quickness defensively.”
In the first half, Cal Poly jumped out to an early 8-6 lead, but could not take control of the game. Although the Aggies pulled ahead 23-15 after a string of layups with 8:07 until halftime, the Mustangs came within striking distance with an 8-2 run. Back-to-back three-pointers by senior point guard Donovan Fields and sophomore wing Mark Crowe helped the Mustangs tie the game at 25-25. UC Davis dominated in the offensive zone throughout the opening half, as 20 of their 34 first half points were scored from inside the paint. On the other hand, the Mustangs struggled shooting the ball on offense, 33.3 field goal percentage in the first half. The Aggies closed out the first half with a 34-25 lead.
“We took bad, quick shots which turned into transition points and all of a sudden we were down nine at the half,” Callero said. “I feel like the momentum shifted and you could feel the frustration in the locker room because it was self-inflicted.”
Rice, who scored nine points, gave credit to the Aggies defense, who caused eight Mustang turnovers in the first half.
“They are a really good helping team,” Rice said. “I see a few driving lanes, but they close up really fast.”
To start the second half, Cal Poly put together an impressive 8-0 run in the first five minutes to cut the lead down 34-33. However, UC Davis went on their own 8-0 run to extend the lead back to nine with 12:00 remaining on the clock.
“We have to stay locked in and be ready for everything,” Fields, who had a team-high 17 points, said. By recording three steals, Fields became the eighth player in program history to earn 100 career steals.
The Mustangs went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead back down to only a point with 8:54 remaining, due to back-to-back turnovers by the Aggies. Again, UC Davis responded. Reigning Big West Player of the Year TJ Shorts II landed a jump shot and three-pointer just 38 seconds apart, helping UC Davis build a comfortable 55-47 lead, which they maintained for the rest of the game. The Aggies ultimately won 63-53.
Throughout the game, Cal Poly gave up easy uncontested layups after failing defensively on either back-door cuts or curls by UC Davis.
“The things that need work are our ability to concentrate on the scouting report and not take one or two plays off and get beat on a back-door,” Callero said.
The Mustangs will look to get their second conference win and sneak out of the bottom of the standings against Long Beach State this Saturday, Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.