It finally happened. The Cal Poly Men’s Basketball team pulled off their first Big West Conference win, 71-45 over UC Riverside on Jan. 31 at SRC Arena. Strong shooting by junior guard Job Alexander and senior guard Marcellus Garrick propelled the Mustangs to break their five-game losing streak and 20-game road losing streak. Alexander scored a career-high 15 points and recorded six rebounds in a team-high 35 minutes.
Cal Poly (5-14, 1-5 Big West) started off slow after the tip-off, as they trailed 6-13 to UC Riverside (8-15, 2-5) 5:00 into the game. The Mustangs picked up the pace, going on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 15-15 with 9:51 left in the first half.
After the Highlanders retook a two-point lead, senior point guard Donovan Fields sunk a three-pointer with 6:42 until halftime to give the Mustangs a 21-20 lead. The lead changed twice more until the Mustangs pulled ahead, 28-23 at halftime.
The Mustangs picked up intense momentum in the second half, exploding with an unquenchable thirst. Alexander, who went seven for 10 from the field throughout the game, opened the second half scoring to put Cal Poly up 30-25. Alexander added a layup, along with back-to-back three-pointers from Garrick and sophomore wing Mark Crowe while the Mustangs combined for a 19-2 run.
Cal Poly continued to extend its lead as Garrick was shooting lights-out, making four of his six three-pointers in the last 12 minutes. Garrick also made six of seven shots from the field. After the Highlanders made a three-pointer to bring the Mustangs’ lead down to 52-36 with 9:02 remaining in the game, senior forward Kuba Niziol responded with his own three-pointer. The Mustangs’ lead did not drop below 20 points for the remainder of the game.
With 3:38 left in the game, the Mustangs were ahead by 29 points, their largest lead of the game. Redshirt freshman guard Jared Rice had a collegiate best of 12 points and Niziol scored 10 points.
Despite the dominant 71-45 win, Cal Poly still sits at the bottom of the Big West Conference. The Mustangs will finish their road trip at CSUN (9-13, 3-3) on Saturday, Feb 2.