In a classic game made for TV, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 70-68 loss Wednesday night to visiting Cal State Fullerton.
Trailing 68-65, junior guard Shawn Lewis hit a clutch three-pointer with 5.2 seconds left bringing the entire gym to its feet and pulling the Mustangs even at 68. However, his efforts were topped by sophomore guard Jacques Streeter who hit a running bank shot from just inside the three-point line as time expired to give the Titans (15-12, 8-6 Big West) the victory.
Head coach Joe Callero said the game resembled an NCAA tournament game in terms of effort, excitement and overall play.
“It was just one of those fantastic basketball games,” Callero said. “We just feel miserable right now that we were unable to win it.”
The Mustangs (10-17, 6-8 Big West) were led by Lewis who scored 19 points and contributed a team high 11 rebounds. Sophomore David Hanson added 13 points for Cal Poly and senior Lorenzo Keeler chipped in with 12 on the night. The Mustangs currently sit in sixth place in the conference, while Cal State Fullerton holds on to third place.
The Titans were paced by Streeter who led all scorers with 21 points. Also in double figures for the Titans were senior forward Gerard Anderson with 17 points and nine rebounds and junior Jer’Vaughn Johnson with 12. Both Johnson and Anderson made a living in the paint where their size and athleticism were too much for Mustang defenders to handle.
The Mustangs struggled from the floor shooting only 38 percent on the night. They shot 3 for 19 from behind the arc, which is usually a critical component of their success. However, they continually attacked the hoop to get to the free throw line, making 17 of 22 attempts from the foul line.
“Jumpers weren’t really there for us tonight,” Lewis said. “One of the things I was trying to do tonight was drive more and create opportunities.”
The game went back and forth continually with 21 ties and eight lead changes. Keeler said the end of the game was a tough way to lose, but he felt the team did a lot of good things in the loss including contributions from Jordan Lewis and Kyle Odister who combined for 15 points off the bench.
“Bench play is important, especially at the end of the season,” Keeler said. “The starters are playing a lot of minutes and it’s important for the bench to come in and give us that spark.”
Students chanted “Let’s Go Poly,” from the beginning of the game to create an electric atmosphere inside the gym. Callero said the crowd provided great energy throughout and helped keep the team motivated down to the very last seconds.
“I think that we were sluggish early and still a little fatigued from our trip,” Callero said. “The crowd helped us generate that energy and never let them run away from us.”
Despite the gut-wrenching loss, Callero said his team has been playing good basketball and he is proud to be the head coach at Cal Poly.
“The bottom line for us is that we’re a very good team the last two or three weeks,” Callero said. “Unfortunately we’ve lost two heart-breakers recently in the last second and minute.”