Pacific shut down the Mustangs’ hot shooting in the second half to defeat Cal Poly 76-63 Friday night in Mott Gym.
Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero met each Pacific player with a firm handshake and solemn stare after his Mustangs (4-9, 1-1 Big West) lost their first conference bout of the season.
Despite rallying a two-point halftime lead, Cal Poly posted a 32.3 field goal percentage in the second half after shooting 57.1 in the first.
“We gave them a lot of free money, they were getting wide open shots and on our end they made it tough for us.” senior guard Lorenzo Keeler said. “I don’t think i got a wide-open shot all day.”
Heading out of halftime Junior Shawn Lewis hit a three pointer on the wing to put the Mustangs up five, but Pacific (9-5, 2-0) answered back with an eight point lead of its own. Another three pointer from Lewis and a coast-to coast layup from Keeler put the Mustangs withing one, but Pacific answered once again.
“Give them the credit, they played great (defense) on us tonight. Hopefully we learn from this and we get ready for Sunday’s game,” Keeler said.
With about six minutes left, Pacific hit two three-pointers and a pair of free throws to put the lead to put the game out of the reach for the Mustangs. Two technical fouls didn’t help the Mustangs’ cause.
“Next thing you know we’re down eight or nine,” Keeler said. “Everybody has to know that ‘hey they are going to make a run’ but we got to do our best to counter that and make our own runs.”
Cal Poly headed into Friday’s contest without its center and second leading scorer Will Donahue.
“We can’t operate at anything other than a 100 percent level, we don’t have the luxury to be operating at a 100 percent level,” Callero said. “You don’t have much room for error.”
The absence forced the Mustangs into more than just a line-up change, it forced them into a defensive change.
“It was just so hard, we don’t have the physical depth there,” Callero said. “We went man-to-man maybe 10 possessions of the night, I think they probably scored seven of them, so we were really left with the zone option.”
The zone switch left many wide-open three-point shot opportunities for the Tigers. Demetrece Young finished the game with 19 points, along with five long-range buckets, and Terrell Smith finished with 15 points. They were 8-10 from downtown combined.
The Mustangs are still learning new things about the zone defense that they have implemented the past two games, Callero said.
With forward Jordan Lewis getting into foul trouble, forward David Hanson earned some valuable minutes and put forth a career-high performance with 15 points and six rebounds.
“We need our bench to step up,” Callero said. “(He) came in gave us an aggressive attack to the hoop, some shots, a post-up, what we forget sometimes is that Kyle Oddister is a freshman and David Hanson is a sophomore, we are a young team in some areas.”
Inexperience is another factor the Mustangs are going to have to combat as conference play progresses. Of its projected starting line-up, factoring in Donahue, three of five starters are underclassmen.
“The only way those freshman and sophomores continue to mature is by getting on the court, going to the games and getting experience.” Callero said.
Shawn Lewis finished the game with 17 points, sinking a perfect 4-4 from beyond the three-point stripe. Keeler finished as the highest scoring Mustang in the game and the third of three Mustangs to score in double-digits, with 18 points. Hanson was the third with his career night.
Donahue will not take the hardwood again this weekend, he has been ruled not to participate in Sunday’s contest against UC Davis.
“Could he be out for the year? Yup,” Callero quickly answered his own question. “We are back to confusion board on how to resolve those issues.”
Tip-off against the Aggies is scheduled for 2 p.m.