After building a 47-31 lead with 4:55 remaining in the game, it looked as if the Cal Poly men’s basketball team would roll to an easy victory over the visiting Loyola Marymount Lions (LMU). The Lions would not go quietly as they stepped up their defensive pressure and cut the Mustangs’ lead to two with 47 seconds remaining.
However, the Mustangs’ defense stood strong and Cal Poly was able to make its final six free throws on the night to ice the game en route to a 55-48 victory Wednesday night in Mott Gym.
With the win, the Mustangs evened their record at 2-2 on the young season.
It was a struggle all night on the offensive ends of the floor as both teams found it difficult to put the ball in the hoop. Cal Poly shot 32.7 percent (16-49) from the floor on the night, while LMU shot only 30 percent (15-50).
The Mustangs received key contributions from their bench as redshirt sophomores Chris O’Brien and Drake U’u both had career-highs with 10 points. The Big Three, comprised of Shawn Lewis, David Hanson and Will Donahue, were held mostly in check, combining for 24 points on a combined 6-25 shooting from the floor.
Despite shooting just 37 percent from the floor, Cal Poly held a 27-21 halftime lead on the strength of freshman point guard Maliik Love. Love sparked the Mustangs’ offense, scoring nine points in a two minute span late in the first half to help build Cal Poly’s lead to as many as 11 points in the half. Love tied his career high with nine points.
The lead swelled to 16 points on two occasions in the second half, but the Lions were able to scrap their way back into the game on the strength of their full-court pressure defense. Cal Poly committed multiple turnovers in the final minutes which turned into easy buckets for LMU. Each team committed 16 turnovers on the night.
Despite all the turnovers, Cal Poly held on for the victory because of their free throw shooting and defense. The Mustangs shot a season best 19-24 (79.2 percent) from the line on the night.
For the Mustangs, the win was a big one after losing two straight, including a loss at the hands of Division II Cal State Monterey Bay about a week ago in Mott Gym. The Mustangs return to action on Saturday, Nov. 27 when they travel to take on Sacramento State at 7:00 p.m.