The Mustangs finished their regular season with a second loss to Blue-Green rivals UC Santa Barbara at the Thunderdome on Saturday, March 5.
Cal Poly (3-19, 1-15 Big West) will take a nine-game losing streak into the Big West Tournament as the No. 10 seed. The Mustangs have not won away at the Thunderdome since 2014.
The game started off slowly, with the Mustangs getting the first points of the night after a minute of play. The Gauchos responded quickly, but the game proceeded to die down, as both teams went scoreless for the next two minutes of gameplay.
The two teams traded points until the 14:16 mark, when it began to look like the Mustangs were in control, leading the Gauchos at 8-7. A second-chance dunk from junior forward Tuukka Jaakkola and a hookshot jumper from sophomore forward Alimamy Koroma extended the Cal Poly lead to 12-9, with roughly half of the period left to play.
The Mustangs achieved their largest lead of the night with seven minutes left in the half, after a three-pointer from sophomore guard Colby Rogers to put the score at 20-14. Santa Barbara roared back into the game, going on an 8-2 run to tie the game at 22.
Cal Poly could not recover before the halftime whistle, with the Gauchos going into the second half with a 31-24 lead. The Santa Barbara defense proved to be a problem for the Mustangs, causing 16 turnovers compared to their own 11. The Gauchos’ bench also helped recover the lead, scoring 21 points in comparison to Cal Poly’s eight.
Santa Barbara started the second half with intent, going on a 7-0 run and not allowing the Mustangs to score until the 16:20 mark. Cal Poly closed the gap to three points through a pair of free throws from Koroma, but that would be the closest they came to tying the game in the second half.
In the final quarter of the game, the Gauchos began to take control, achieving an 11-point lead with three minutes left in the game. The Mustangs could not get back into the game, finishing with a 16-point deficit at 70-54.
Jaakkola reached a season high with 12 points while senior guard Keith Smith played a full 40 minutes, adding 11 points and six assists in the process. Cal Poly finished the regular season winless on the road in 11 matches.
The Mustangs play their first game of the Big West Tournament in Las Vegas at Michelob Ultra Arena, on Tuesday, March, 9 at 6 p.m.