Cal Poly Men’s Basketball defeated Cal State Fullerton in dramatic fashion with a 101-100 overtime victory Thursday, Jan. 30 inside Mott Athletics Center. Freshman guard Colby Rogers scored a layup with 0.4 seconds remaining in overtime to grant the Mustangs their second conference win of the season.
Sophomore guard Junior Ballard led the Mustangs with a career-high 32 points in the victory. The Mustangs shot 57 percent from the field (35 of 61) for their highest field shooting percentage since 2013.
“A lot of us stepped up tonight, it was great,” graduate guard Jamal Smith said. “It’s always great to be home, always great to get wins at home too. Hopefully [the fans] can keep coming out showing us love and support, you know, regardless of our previous record. We really feel good right now in conference. We really feel confident.”
Cal State Fullerton (8-14, 3-4 Big West) won the tip-off and scored the first points of the night through redshirt freshman Vincent Lee. Cal Poly (5-15, 2-4 Big West) responded quickly as junior wing Mark Crowe put the Mustangs in the lead with a three-pointer. Redshirt junior point guard Keith Smith stole the ball on the following possession and found sophomore forward Tuukka Jaakkola, who finished the play with a layup to bring the score to 5-2.
The Mustang defense controlled the start of the game as they held the Titans to three missed three-pointers in the opening four minutes. Cal State Fullerton’s Brandon Kamga hit the Titans first three-pointer of the game to cut their deficit to 7-5, but the Mustangs responded through a Keith Smith layup. Keith went on finish as the third highest scorer on the court with 17 points.
Both teams exchanged points throughout the remainder of the half as the lead changed 11 times before the halftime whistle. The Mustangs capped off the first half with a 5-2 run behind a three-pointer from Rogers to go into the break with a 46-41 advantage.
The second half opened with the defensive play of the night from Jaakkola, who pinned a Fullerton layup to the backboard and blocked yet another shot before scoring a layup of his own on the following play. However, Cal State Fullerton responded with seven unanswered points to tie the game at 48-48 with 17:21 remaining.
Jamal Smith broke the Titans scoring drive with a layup and a steal before Ballard found the net to restore the Mustangs’ lead to 52-48.
A jump-shot from Ballard and a three-point play from senior guard Job Alexander extended Cal Poly’s lead to 60-54 with 12:05 remaining in regulation. Alexander stole the ball two minutes later and drove to the hoop for a slam dunk as Mott Athletics Center erupted with noise.
A Ballard three-pointer with just over six minutes remaining granted Cal Poly its largest lead of the game at 76-65. However, Cal State Fullerton began to chip away at its deficit with a 5-2 run led by senior guard Austen Awosika. After a second-chance jumper by Jamal Smith at the three minute mark, the Titans went on a 6-2 run to bring the score within six points at 82-76.
With 42 seconds remaining, Cal State Fullerton kicked off one last scoring drive that ended with a deep three-pointer from Awosika, tying the game at 93-93 to force Cal Poly into its first overtime period of the season.
Cal Poly opened the overtime period with three consecutive points before a pair of free throws from Titans senior forward Jackson Rowe tied the game once again at 98-98 with 0:43 remaining. A foul brought Keith Smith to the free throw line with 22 seconds on the clock. Keith scored one of two free throws to put Cal Poly ahead by a single point at 99-98.
With four seconds left in overtime, Awosika hit a jumper to pull the Titans ahead 100-99 in what seemed to be the final bucket of the game. However, Keith Smith quickly inbounded the ball and found Rogers at the other end of the court with a pinpoint bounce pass. Rogers collected the pass and scored a game-winning layup with just 0.4 seconds remaining to grant Cal Poly a 101-100 victory.
The victory marked the first match between first head coach John Smith and Cal State Fullerton. Smith spent six years as associate head coach of the Titans before coming to Cal Poly this season.
“I always talk about how basketball is a metaphor for life,” John Smith said. “You’re not always gonna have great times, and you gotta learn how to bounce back from that. And this team has bounced back from a lot of adversity.”
Cal Poly will look to carry its momentum into its next game at UC Davis Saturday, Feb. 1 at 5 p.m.