The Cal Poly men’s basketball team gave away a three-point lead with less than a second to go in regulation and fell to conference-leading UC Irvine in overtime on Wednesday night.
The Mustangs (8-13, 2-6 Big West) gave up a three-pointer in the waning seconds of overtime and led by two points in the final minute of overtime, but ended up falling 78-72.
Cal Poly opened up an 11-point lead midway through the first half on the shoulders of four consecutive three-pointers by senior guard Reese Morgan, junior guard Ridge Shipley and sophomore forward Luke Meikle.
UC Irvine slowly closed the gap, however, chipping away at the lead during the final seven minutes of the half. The Anteaters went into the locker room with a one-point lead by a score of 28-27.
The Anteaters (18-6, 7-1) posted 46 percent shooting, including 20 percent from beyond the arc in the first half. The Mustangs trailed in overall shooting percentage at 38 percent, but shot 42 percent from three-point range. Senior guard David Nwaba attacked the rim hard in the first half and led all scorers with 10 points.
The Mustangs scored only one bucket in the first four and a half minutes of the second half, shooting only 14 percent during that time. The Anteaters, on the other hand, hit 67 percent of their shots over that same time period and extended their lead to 40-29.
However, Cal Poly mounted a slow comeback and took the lead, 60-58, for the first time in the second half with 1:50 remaining.
Morgan found himself at the free-throw line with 4.1 seconds remaining and the Mustangs up 62-60. His first shot rattled out, but the second found nothing but net, giving the Mustangs a 3-point advantage.
Coming out of a timeout, the Anteaters worked and inbounds play to perfection, completing a full-court pass followed by a kick outside and a three-pointer with under a second to go. The Mustangs’ full-court heave fell wide of the basket and the game headed to overtime.
Both teams battled closely during overtime, but the Mustangs gave up a two-point lead with 46 seconds left and couldn’t regain it, falling in overtime for the first time this season.
“I like 90 to 95 percent of what we did tonight,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said. “You know, you find five percent, you find three percent, you find one percent, we’re celebrating a victory. You’ve just got to be able to keep it in perspective.”
Two Anteaters, including 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye, tied for the scoring lead with 21 points. Ndiaye’s eight blocks were the most for a single player against the Mustangs in Cal Poly history.
“(Ndiaye) makes defense for them a little easier, I believe,” Morgan said. “They don’t have to worry too much about people going into the paint, so that’s really helpful.”
The Mustangs heaved up 30 three-pointers on the night and were led by Shipley and sophomore guard Taylor Sutlife, who each had 11 points on three treys. Freshman guard Jaylen Shead led the Mustangs in rebounding with seven boards, his career high.
“(That) definitely wasn’t the game plan going into it,” Shipley said. “I don’t think any coach wants to say, ‘hey, go jack up 30.’ But I think we took a lot of smart ones and we have a lot of good shooters on our team that can knock them down.”
The men’s basketball team now looks ahead to Saturday, when it takes on Hawaii at 7 p.m. in Mott Athletics Center.
“We’ve had a couple of these kind of games,” Shipley said. “And there’s a difference between coming back getting blown out and coming back and losing by a couple points. But we’re still fighting every game and we have that same mindset against Hawaii.”