Facing a 19-point second-half deficit Cal Poly men’s basketball couldn’t complete the comeback, falling to UC Berkeley 85-82.
The Golden Bears (1-1) went into the final minute of the game with a 78-71 lead, forcing the Mustangs to foul for a chance at the win. Cal Poly (0-2) made three 3-pointers, but the Golden Bears went 7-10 from the free throw line in that final minute, hanging on to the lead for a three-point final margin.
Junior guard Marcellus Garrick led Cal Poly off the bench with 19 points, including a 5-5 shooting performance from beyond the arc. Garrick was not without help, as senior guard Donovan Fields tallied another 18 points in 38 total minutes. Fields also drained four of his six shots from 3-point range.
The Mustangs finished the day shooting 51.7 percent from the field, including an outstanding 57.1 percent (16 for 28) from 3-point range. Their second-half performance gave them a chance to win, shooting 63.3 percent from the field while holding the Golden Bears to 42.3 percent during the final period.
UC Berkeley, however, had an even better first half. The Golden Bears seemed to have no problem scoring on the Mustangs, shooting 70.8 percent from the field to start the game. UC Berkeley took a 44-30 lead at the half, allowing them some slack for the second half.
Head coach Joe Callero pointed out that defense was a concern for the Mustangs after their exhibition victory against Cal State East Bay. The most glaring weakness on defense was against the 3-point shot, which showed in their previous game against Stanford when the Cardinal shot 9 of 19 from beyond the arc.
The Mustangs held UC Berkeley to only four 3-pointers in this matchup, but the Golden Bears had a different focus offensively. California’s forward Marcus Lee and center Kingsley Okoroh, standing at 6-foot-11 and 7-foot-1 respectively, provided a tough, physical matchup for the Cal Poly big men. The Golden Bears scored 42 points inside the paint and out-rebounded the Mustangs 31 to 18, including 12 offensive rebounds. Cal Poly also allowed 22 second-chance points.
Despite the glaring defensive problems, the team has shown improvement through two games against Pac-12 opponents. The offense is seeming to click with explosive guard play. Fields has only been on the bench for seven minutes through four games, proving to be a consistent playmaker throughout the game. Garrick has led the team in points twice this season and is 10 for 12 on 3-point shot attempts.
The defense has shown some promise as well. The Mustangs held California to 4 of 11 in 3-point shooting, improving on their performance against Stanford. Cal Poly won the turnover battle in their two games, forcing 16 turnovers in both games.
Cal Poly also proved that they can hit big shots with the clock winding down. If it’s a close game down the wire, the Mustangs’ three-point talent will give them a chance to win.
Cal Poly’s regular season home-opener will be against Division-II opponent Holy Names University Nov. 15 at 7:00 p.m.