A key layup by UC Santa Barbara guard Gabe Vincent spoiled Cal Poly’s rally back from a 15-point deficit in Thursday’s Blue-Green Rivalry men’s basketball game.
Cal Poly (6-9, 0-2 Big West) and UCSB (7-8, 1-1) both sported overall records of 6-8 coming into the first rivalry game of the year. The result of Thursday night’s matchup determined which school would have the edge this early in the season.
Regardless of Thursday night’s outcome, the Mustang offense put on another solid performance. Coming into the game as the Big West Conference’s second leading scoring team with over 75 points per game, Cal Poly registered its 13th game of the season scoring seventy or more points.
Senior guard David Nwaba led the Mustangs in scoring with 16 points on the night. A player known for his overall expertise, Nwaba also led the team in rebounding (nine) and tied for the most in assists (three).
Despite his solid play throughout the game, Nwaba was unable to convert a contested layup with two seconds left that would have given the Mustangs the lead. UCSB guard Eric Childress was fouled and converted both free throws to give the Gauchos a 76-73 lead, then junior guard Ridge Shipley’s desperation heave to tie the game missed the mark.
Cal Poly forward Josh Martin helped put on a show for a crowd that marked the third straight sold out Blue-Green rivalry basketball game at Mott Athletic Center. The freshman transfer from Minnesota scored 12 points off the bench, including a couple of put-back dunks in the first half that got the fans going.
“I was just trying to hustle and give 100 percent,” Martin said. “Regardless of the outcome, you have to give a good effort because hustle plays can make the difference in a game.”
At the halfway point, the Gauchos led the game 43-38 and came out hot in the second half to stretch their lead to 15 with less than eight minutes to play. But the Mustangs were not to be counted out, especially in front of an energetic crowd at home.
Cal Poly began cutting down the lead thanks to timely field goals from Nwaba, Martin, and senior forwards Brian Bennett and Joel Awich. Bennett dominated the paint at times, scoring four of his 13 total points in the last 10 minutes. But with a minute and a half to play, it was Awich who hit a three-pointer that gave the Mustangs a one-point lead.
The excitement was soon erased when Vincent hit a layup with 11 seconds left to secure the game for the Gauchos. Vincent led all scorers on the night with 27 points on 7-11 shooting from three-point range.
“We regrouped and made a battle out of it,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said. “I was really proud because this team has shown tremendous stamina and maturity this year.”
Next up for the Mustangs is a home conference matchup against Long Beach State on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Mott Athletic Center.