With 17 seconds left on the clock, senior guard Lorenzo Keeler was whistled for a foul on Matador guard Raymond Cody. Cody, a junior, had been held scoreless to that point. With the score at 73-72 in favor of the Mustangs, Cody needed two from the stripe to put his team up.
After missing the first free-throw, the second bounced off the rim and fell into a sea of players. After the ball was volleyed by nearly every player, the Matadors managed two shot attempts that didn’t find the nylon. What ensued was something resembling a rugby scrum as both teams tried desperately to corral the ball while the referees swallowed their whistles. At least four players ended up on the floor and one Cal State Northridge player limped off with and injury. Somehow, Hanson secured the ball and the win with 2.2. seconds left. Neither team scored again.
The Mustangs (8-10, 5-2 Big West) mustered their second straight conference win Saturday night against Cal State Northridge (7-12, 2-4) in Mott Gym. Cal Poly, led by Keeler and his 23 points, beat Cal State Northridge 73-72 in what was part basketball game part brawl.
“It was ugly, it was really ugly, but ugly sometimes win,” head coach Joe Callero said.
Hanson added 15 and Shawn Lewis finished with 11. resh of his game-winning free throws from Thursday, Lewis gave Poly a 71-69 lead with 1:55 left.
“He hit some big shots for us made some big plays, got big rebounds, but his poise was much better … he is maturing as a player,” Callero said.
Still up two, Kyle Odister got a screen on the elbow from Keeler and kissed in a leaning banker with 43 seconds left, it would eventually prove to be the game winner.
“What we know about Kyle is that he’s done this two or three times for us … He shot it with confidence and I think the team expects him to make that shot,” Callero said.
Mark Hill, who led the charge for the Matadors and was perfect from the field until 3:53 mark in the second half, came back and hit an off-balance three. Running full speed down the left side of the court, Hill stopped and nailed a long-range three while fading to the left. Hill went 5-7 from long range and ended the night with 24 points.
“Maybe even a month ago we lose that game … (but now) the internal message in our guy’s head is we’re going to win, we’re going to find a way,” Callero said.
Still missing big man Will Donahue, Callero reached into his bag of tricks and played small ball. One point during the game, the tallest player on the court was the 6-foot-6-inch David Hanson.
“Let’s play small, let’s play Golden State Warrior basketball,” Callero said. “How are they going to respond to us? We have three point guards out on the court … two small forwards and they had to adjust to us. We had quickness. We were able to move the ball, everybody could touch and drive it and pass it.”
The Mustangs are riding a three-game win streak. Highlighted by their last two wins by a combined three points, Cal Poly is finishing close games.
“It’s a toughness that we’re having at the end of the game,” Keeler said. “Last year, to be honest, we weren’t as hungry, for whatever reason I don’t think everybody was hungry enough to finish off those games. This year, everybody wants to do their part whether that’s rebounding, making shots, whatever it is to win these close ones.”