The Cal Poly men’s basketball team ended a five-game losing streak against UC Davis on Thursday night in the Mott Athletic Center, beating the Aggies for the first time since 2013.
The Mustangs won 58-53, advancing their record to 10-15 overall and 4-8 in the Big West Conference.
This game is the second lowest-scoring game for the Mustangs so far this season, with both of their lowest scoring games being against the Aggies (10-15, 5-7).
Cal Poly got off to a slow start in the game. The Aggies hit a three-pointer within the first 30 seconds, while it took redshirt freshman forward Josh Martin nearly three minutes to put the Mustangs’ first two points on the board.
UC Davis continued to lead the game for eight minutes until the Mustangs managed to tie it up at 14.
Overall, the Aggies led for 15 of 20 minutes in the first half, with the two teams tying twice and the Mustangs only going ahead for less than three minutes at the end of the half.
Cal Poly headed to the locker room with a three-point lead over the Aggies, 25-22. The Mustangs shot 33 percent from the field and 27 percent beyond the arc, while the Aggies shot 36 percent overall and an electric 43 percent from behind the three-point line.
The Aggies did not manage a single offensive rebound in the first half.
“It really kind of breaks a team’s back when there’s an offensive rebound,” senior guard Reese Morgan said. “Every game we kind of emphasize that and I think tonight, we just executed it.”
The start of the second half was another rough one for the Mustangs, with the team only making 14 percent of its shots during the first five minutes. This allowed the Aggies to start gaining control before Cal Poly fought back, with both teams tied at 30 with 14:30 left in the game.
From there on out, Cal Poly was able to regain control and the Mustangs maintained possession of the game until the final buzzer.
However, the two teams played it close in the final two minutes, when the Aggies drew the score to 52-50 in the final minute.
This two-point lead continued into the final 30 seconds until a defensive rebound by senior guard David Nwaba that led to a foul. Morgan hit two free throws to raucous waves of applause.
The Aggies fouled Morgan twice more within the final minute, but he knocked down all four free throws, finishing 6-6 from the line in the final 25 seconds. The senior scored a game-high 15 points.
“I think this is a big win. Davis is a good team. They fight, they grind, they do a bunch of different defenses and that kind of stuff,” Morgan said. “This is the kind of game that we’ve lost a lot of this year, so I think it’s a big testament to our character and to our growth that we were able to pull this one out.”
Overall, the Mustangs managed 46 rebounds in the entire game, 10 of which came from Martin. The freshman also scored 11 points for the team, recording his first double-double of the season.
“Our shots weren’t falling, but our defense was a big part of the win,” Martin said. “Doesn’t matter if we only score one point, if they don’t score any points, we still win. We put a lot of emphasis on effort and heart and hustle on defense and that’s what helped us get the W tonight.”
Cal Poly produced 13 points from the bench, but the team made a season-low 33 percent of their shots over the entire game and shot only 23 percent beyond the three-point line. The Aggies made 38 percent of their shots and 41 percent past the line.
This game marks the Mustang’s 100th victory under head coach Joe Callero.
The men’s basketball team continues its home stand as it faces Cal State Northridge in Mott Athletics Center Saturday night at 7 p.m.
The Mustangs lost against the Matadors 76-74 last time the two teams met this season.
“I think what’s really important for us is learning how to build a lead, how to respond when somebody else comes back down,” Callero said. “(Northridge is) a team that beat us at their place, a team that’s higher than us in the standings, and I think the key to that is getting at the fact that we have a deep enough bench to find a player or two to give us the energy.”