The men’s basketball team (5-14, 0-5 Big West) continued its losing streak in a pair of games this past week, starting with a 70-48 loss to UC Irvine (13-9, 6-0) and a 98-92 overtime loss to Long Beach State (8-14, 3-3). These two home games run the Mustangs’ losing streak to 10 consecutive losses.
Versus UC Irvine
The Mustangs were cold throughout the first half, going 8 of 32 from the field in the games’ first 20 minutes. Senior guard Kyle Toth and sophomore guard Donovan Fields were the only Cal Poly players to make more than one shot. But the Mustangs made up for their shooting struggles on offense by tightening up defensively. UC Irvine didn’t shoot much better than the Mustangs, shooting just 39.1 percent from the floor in the first half. Thanks to the effort on the defensive end, Cal Poly faced a 31-22 deficit
Behind stout offensive rebounding by sophomore forward Aleks Abrams, the Mustangs were able to cut the deficit to 42-37 with 12 minutes left in the game. But from there on out, the Anteaters took control.
UC Irvine went on a quick 8-2 run to force head coach Joe Callero to call timeout and give Cal Poly a chance to reset for the stretch run. It proved ineffective as the Anteaters went on a 14-4 run to push their lead to 64-43 with two minutes left in the game. The Mustangs ran out of time and lost by a final score of 70-48.
One of the biggest problems for the Mustangs was the size of UC Irvine’s center, Ioannis Dimakopoulos. At 7-foot-2, the freshman was too much for Cal Poly’s big men tandem to handle, finishing with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Besides that, Callero was happy with the defensive effort in light of the team’s shooting struggles (24.1 percent for the game).
“Pleased with our transition [defense], pleased with our perimeter [defense],” he said. “We’ve been able to control the bleeding in that way.”
Versus Long Beach State
Senior guard Ridge Shipley scored a career-high 27 points, but it still wasn’t enough in an overtime thriller against Long Beach State at Mott Gym Saturday night.
The Mustangs took the lead less than a minute after the opening tipand refused to give it back for almost the entirety of the game. After accumulating a 17-point lead with just under 13 minutes left in the game, the Mustangs’ defense fell apart and let the 49ers back into a game in which they should have never had a chance to win.
Shipley did most of his damage in the first half with 19 of his 27 points coming before the break, shooting 8 of 9 from the field and made all three shots from three-point range. In the second half Shipley cooled down, only making three shots from
“I wasn’t going to force anything,” Shipley said. “Just tried to distribute and do what I’ve been doing all year which is try to get my teammates open looks.”
Despite only attempting one shot from deep in the first half, the 49ers converted 6 of 9 shots from beyond the arc in the second half and managed to tie the score at 87 with 1:32 left to play.
The score remained tied until Fields connected on a reverse-layup with three seconds remaining, after weaving down the length of the court to give the Mustangs an 89-87 lead.
“I got the opportunity to get that last shot and coach just told me to push the ball up ahead and see what I could get,” Fields said. “The layup was there so I decided to take it.”
With 0.3 seconds left on the clock, 49er freshman guard Loren Jackson missed a last-second shot from three-point range but was fouled by Cal Poly sophomore guard Victor Joseph. After missing the first shot, Jackson connected on the second and third to send the game to overtime.
The Mustangs won the tip and scored first in overtime, but were unable to muster any more points as the 49ers held them to 1 of 9 shooting from the floor in extra time.
As the Mustangs’ offense faded away, the 49ers offense stayed strong and shot 50 percent from the field in overtime on their way victory.
Giving up a big lead in the second half is nothing new for the Mustangs, as their three-point shooting defense has been terrible this season.
“When they went to a single post, they put four around the perimeter and had a single post so now its [one on one],” Callero said. “When we did over-help on that post situation, you see that then opened up the perimeter shooting for them.”
Still searching for their first win against a conference foe, the Mustangs will travel to UC Irvine to take on the Anteaters (13-9) Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.