Long Beach State forward Larry Anderson attempts a free throw during their 78-72 victory over Cal Poly on Thursday night. Photo by Patrick Leiva-Mustang Daily.

The Cal Poly men’s basketball team has been crippled by slow starts and a lack of sustained energy during their recent four game losing streak. On Thursday night, that was not the case as the Mustangs jumped on top of Long Beach State early and built a 10-point halftime lead. However, it was the finish which spelled defeat for the Mustangs on this night as they dropped a hard fought 78-72 contest to the 49ers.

Cal Poly (8-15, 5-6 Big West) fell one game back, into sixth place, of a group of three teams tied with a 6-5 record in conference play. Long Beach State (12-12, 6-5 Big West) had five players who scored in double figures and was led by sophomore forward Eugene Phelps with 15 points. His offensive rebound and put back with 47 seconds to play sealed the win for the 49ers. Three others contributed 14 points on the night who moved into a third place tie in conference.

Head coach Joe Callero said he was satisfied with the energy his team brought to the floor, but wants to see more patience in finding an open shot when the game is tight down the stretch.

“My concern is trying to balance the high emotional energy with the intellectual perspective and patience to understand that we need a good shot,” Callero said.

The Mustangs played with high intensity throughout the first half by doing the little things it takes to win such as diving after loose balls, blocking shots and finding open teammates. This was epitomized by senior forward Ryan Darling’s series of blocks with under two minutes to play. The crowd rose to their feet in appreciation following his rejection into the front row along the baseline. Callero said he had no problem with the way the Mustangs opened the game.

“It’s the first time that we’ve had great energy and a great start in the past two weeks,” Callero said. “I was completely pleased with our first half execution.”

Cal Poly broke a deadlock at 17 with a 10-0 run midway through the first half by spreading the ball around and making open shots. The Mustangs consistently attacked the basket which set up their shooters to knock down shots from beyond the arc. Senior guard Lorenzo Keeler had a career high 10 assists and said he wanted to get his teammates more involved tonight with teams keying on him more.

“In the first half, we played with a lot of energy and were making shots which makes it easier to play,” Keeler said. “Second half, we didn’t bring the same intensity and that’s not going to work against a team like that who isn’t going to quit.”

The turning point of the game came within the first five minutes of the second half. Long Beach State was able to attack and score on the interior of the Cal Poly zone, which opened up their perimeter shooters. One of those shooters was senior Stephan Gilling who connected on four three-pointers, all in the second half. His back-to-back three-pointers tied the game at 45 and erased the Mustangs halftime lead.

“It was a brand new ball game after that point,” Callero said. ” It was neck and neck the entire way, but we didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.”

Sophomore forward David Hanson, who led all scorers with 19 points, said the Mustangs did not do a good enough job of adjusting on the floor to what Long Beach State was throwing at them.

“Second half they really came out aggressive and put their point guard in the center of our zone,” Hanson said. “He was able to get in there and make plays.”

Hanson said the Mustangs must continue to sustain their energy level and competitiveness throughout the entire game. Also, he said they cannot give up 47 points in the second half and expect to win many games.

Despite the loss, Keeler eclipsed the 1,000 point mark for his career at Cal Poly with a coast-to-coast lay-up with 18:11 left in the second half. He said he did not even realize he reached the mark until after the game.

“Anytime that you can score over 1,000 points in Division-I basketball it’s a good accomplishment,” Keeler said.

Junior guard Shawn Lewis added 17 points on the night along with Keeler. Lewis did most of his damage from three-point land where he was 4 of 8 on the night.

Along with Lewis, the Mustangs sank seven three point attempts in the first half and nearly half of their shots on the night came from behind the arc, and the Mustangs ended up 13 of 33 on the night.

Callero said he was not disappointed in the number of threes the team took, but the quality of some those shots. Also, he wants to see more people involved in the offense.

“They found a way to get five guys involved tonight,” Callero said. “We’ve got to find a way to get more guys going offensively for us to be successful.”

Heading into their upcoming games, Keeler said the games will be determined by intensity level and how hard the team is willing to play, rather than X’s and O’s.

“If you play tough for 40 minutes, then you have a good chance of winning the game,” Keeler said. “If you don’t, you are going to end up on the short end of the stick.”

The Mustangs will return to the court when they travel to UC Riverside Saturday night.

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