The Cal Poly men’s basketball team led for only 1:52 during its game against Long Beach State on Saturday night, but that was enough for the Mustangs to pull off a 96-92 win in double overtime.
Led by senior forward Brian Bennett’s fourth career double-double, the Mustangs (7-9, 1-2 Big West) notched their first conference win of the season and third win against Long Beach State in the last 13 meetings.
Dubbed a “blackout game,” the Mustangs, donning their all-black uniforms, gave the second consecutive sellout crowd at Mott Athletics Center all it could ask for.
Junior forward Zach Gordon scored the first points of the game. The Mustangs led for the first 18 seconds, but the 49ers dominated the rest of the first half. Led by star senior guard Nick Faust, the 49ers shot 43 percent from beyond the arc and 50 percent from the field overall en route to a 42-33 lead going into halftime.
The Mustangs struggled from beyond the arc in the first half, shooting only 22 percent and 41 percent from the field overall. Bennett and sophomore guard Taylor Sutlive both led the Mustangs in scoring in the first half with eight points apiece.
Following the storyline of many of their games so far this season, the Mustangs battled back in the second half. The Mustangs finally completed their comeback when junior guard Ridge Shipley hit a three-pointer with 9:30 remaining in the game to tie the score at 61.
However, the Mustangs couldn’t break through, and Long Beach State led for most of the second half until a bizarre play stopped possession with 49 seconds remaining. After a rebound by Long Beach State, redshirt freshman guard Josh Martin was called for a reaching foul, but was elbowed in the nose following the reach. The referees conferred for nearly 10 minutes before determining that there were two fouls on the play, one on Martin and a flagrant foul on the 49ers.
The 49ers missed two free throws before Cal Poly senior guard Reese Morgan knocked down a pair to cut Long Beach’s lead to 80-77. The Mustangs retained possession of the ball, and Morgan hit a deep three-pointer with six seconds left on the shot clock to tie the game at 80 and send the game to overtime.
“I knew they’d switched,” Morgan said. “I figured since he’d switched off, I think it was (Bennett’s) guy, so I think that I knew he had rebounding position, and he had 12 boards tonight, which is huge. And I figured if I take this and miss it, there’s a good opportunity he gets it and it just happened to go in.”
Both teams traded buckets for most of the first overtime and neither team scored during the last 1:09 of the period, sending the game into a second overtime with the score knotted at 88.
After once again trading points for the beginning of second overtime, the Mustangs finally secured their second lead of the night, 92-91 with 1:34 remaining in the game. Once they had the lead, the Mustangs held on tight. A jumper by senior forward Joel Awich and two free throws from Morgan secured the Mustangs win.
“I think it was a big win for us,” Morgan said. “Going 0-3 is not necessarily ideal. But Beach is a great team. They were 2-1 coming into this. And I think what it taught me a lot is that we can fight.”
The double overtime marathon marked the first time the Mustangs had gone into double overtime in a home game since a Feb. 12, 1972 game against CSU Northridge, then known as San Fernando Valley State College.
“We know that we can play with anyone in our conference,” Bennett said. “Just because the Big West is so talented this year, every team is so good, and night in and night out it’s gonna be a dog fight like tonight was. And I think it just propels us for success in the future because we know how hard we have to play now and keep playing and we know how it feels.”
Bennett led the way for the Mustangs with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Five other Mustangs scored in double digit points, including Awich (12), Morgan (14), Sutlive (11), Gordon (11) and Martin (14). Martin’s 14 points marked his career high.
“We were as athletic as Long Beach State,” head coach Joe Callero said. “That’s rare. We have not said that in the past, but over the course of recruiting, we’re starting to show a little more length, bounce and athleticism to make those plays.”
The Mustangs return to action next Thursday at 7 p.m. when they travel to Northridge to take on CSUN.