Though the Cal Poly men’s basketball team took down both UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara earlier this season, the Highlanders and Gauchos bested the Mustangs the second time around as the Mustangs fell to both Big West foes last Thursday and Saturday respectively.
The Mustangs (9-21, 4-12) clinched the seventh spot in the upcoming Big West tournament by the skin of their teeth despite losing their final two regular season games and six of their last seven.
Cal Poly vs. UC Riverside
In their first opportunity to clinch the seventh seed in the Big West Tournament, the Mustangs squandered their chance with a 72-63 loss to UC Riverside. The Mustangs trailed the Highlanders from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Junior guard Jakub Niziol finished with a team-high 15 points for the Mustangs. Senior forward Luke Meikle and junior guard Donovan Fields each added 14 points.
Sophomore guard Dikymbe Martin led the Highlanders with 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists, all of which were team highs.
The Highlanders made three of their first five shots from beyond the arc to jump ahead 11-3 early in the game. The Mustangs cut their deficit to five with nine minutes remaining in the first half with a three-pointer by Iziah James. With seven minutes left, Niziol’s three-point-play cut the Riverside lead to 49-44, but that was as close as Cal Poly came to securing the lead against Riverside.
Senior guard Victor Joseph was ice cold shooting, converting just two of eleven shots from the floor to finish with six points. After coralling a career-high 18 rebounds against Cal State University Northridge, junior forward Aleks Abrams came back down to earth and finished with just seven rebounds.
The Mustangs’ bench outscored the Highlanders’ bench 23 to 8, but Cal Poly’s 13 turnovers, compared to UC Riverside’s five, stalled any comeback attempt.
Cal Poly vs. UC Santa Barbara
UC Santa Barbara’s 55.7 field goal percentage compared to Cal Poly’s 39.3 percentage was the difference as the Mustangs ended the season with a 86-61 loss to the Gauchos in the Thunderdome Saturday night.
Junior forward Josh Martin scored a team high 20 points and Joseph added 16 for Cal Poly. Graduate senior guard Leland King II and sophomore guard Max Heidegger each scored 23 points to lead the Gauchos.
Cal Poly closed the deficit to 34-29 near the end of the first half, but the Gauchos opened up the second half on a 11-0 run to stretch their lead to 48-29 with 17 minutes remaining.
UC Santa Barbara outscored Cal Poly in the paint 43 to 14 and scored 19 points off Cal Poly’s turnovers.
The Mustangs finished tied for seventh place in the Big West Conference and will open the 43rd Big West Conference as the seventh seed taking on second seeded UC Santa Barbara in the quarterfinals Thursday night.
This is the third time in the last five years that the Mustangs will face the Gauchos in the Big West Tournament opening round.