If the Mustangs had to choose one time all year to play their best basketball, it is now.
Cal Poly’s 4-7 record in nonconference play would mean nothing if the team can rally in the Big West and string together wins.
Three games in their conference schedule — that is exactly what the Mustangs are doing.
Cal Poly defeated Pacific and UC Davis over the weekend, bringing the team’s record in the Big West above .500 and marking the first time all season the Mustangs have pieced together back-to-back wins.
Against Pacific last Thursday, Cal Poly came out with stout defense out of the gates. The Mustangs held Pacific to just a free throw during the first six minutes of the game. The Mustangs’ offense, however, didn’t fare well either. The Mustangs hit just three shots in the first 13 minutes of the first half.
From there, the Mustangs found a bit of rhythm and hit four of their eight shot attempts down the stretch in the first half and took a 17-16 advantage into the break.
The Tigers answered in the second half, going on a 13-6 run to take a 29-23 lead.
Layups by guard Matt Titchenal and forward David Hanson and two free throws by center Will Donahue gave the Mustangs the lead once again, but a 3-pointer by Pacific’s Jose Rivera snapped an eight-minute Tigers’ scoring drought and cut the deficit to 38-37. It put Pacific within striking distance with three minutes to play.
Donahue killed any hopes of a comeback.
He sank a couple of free throw attempts down the stretch and tipped in a basket with 25 seconds to play to hold on.
Guard Shawn Lewis led the Mustangs with 11 points in the game. Donahue was the next closest scorer with eight points.
Against UC Davis on Saturday, the Mustangs kept the momentum rolling.
The Aggies leaped out to a 7-3 lead to open the affair, before Cal Poly erased the deficit with a 7-0 run. The Mustangs eventually led at the break, 25-24.
After the teams exchanged bucket after bucket in the second half, Cal Poly found itself up by six points with three minutes to play. With two shots from guard Eddie Miller and a layup from senior guard Joe Harden, the Aggies sliced the Mustang advantage to just two points with 36 seconds remaining.
Lewis drained one of two free throw attempts and Titchenal then sank two free throws to ice the game in favor of the Mustangs.
Lewis again scored a team-high of 11 points. Donahue scored 10 points as well and grabbed 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Guard Maliik Love scored nine points.
The Mustangs return to the court this week, hosting Cal State Fullerton Thursday and UC Irvine on Saturday.