Cal Poly men’s basketball ended their eight-game losing streak with a big win over the UC Irvine Anteaters 65-54 inside Mott Athletics Center on Thursday, Mar. 3.
The Mustangs (6-20, 2-12 Big West) led the entire way against the Anteaters (14-9, 8-5 Big West). The team had a strong defensive outing and an outstanding game from junior big man Alimamy Koroma, who finished with a career-high 27 points.
Cal Poly jumped out to an early 6-1 lead in the first minutes of the game and held the lead the rest of the game.
They built up an 11-point lead by the 8:20 mark. Sophomore wing Kyle Colvin finished a layup off an offensive rebound, and freshman wing Julien Franklin hit a jumper down the next time to extend that lead.
Then, the Mustangs fed their two interior scorers, Koroma and senior center Tuukka Jaakola. Jaakola made a hook shot from the block, and Koroma converted two free throws.
Cal Poly continued to grow the lead, as junior forward Trevon Taylor made a three-pointer off an offensive rebound to make the game 21-9 in favor of the Mustangs, but UC Irvine cut the lead to seven by the end of the half.
Irvine kept the deficit between one or two possessions for the majority of the second half. However, the Mustangs went on a 16-7 run to build a 14-point lead with five minutes left in the game. Koroma scored ten points and assisted on a Franklin three-pointer during the run.
The run sealed the win for Cal Poly.
“Coach told us before the game to play within ourselves and really just have fun out there,” Franklin, who had a career-high 11 points, said. “We wanted to make it special for the crowd tonight. I was just trying to bring energy at the end of the day. Keep my energy high at all times.”
The team played a great defensive game with their activity on-ball and their communication from the backline. Cal Poly held UC Irvine to 38% shooting from the field.
“We worked on being in the right position being in a stance the whole week,” Koroma said after his career night. “Just communicating. My teammates were on top of that. We were rotating well and we were talking well.”
Koroma dealt with double-teams throughout the game and made weakside skip passes to shooters to take advantage of the defense. He also made some outside shots, which forced defenses to come out on him.
“I’m just trying to find different ways to help the team win,” Koroma said. “If hitting threes is one way, that’s what I was gonna do. I’m just happy we won.”
The Mustangs will look to add another win against UC San Diego for their last game of the regular season on Saturday, Mar. 5 at 7 p.m. inside Mott Athletics Center.