Cal Poly Men’s Basketball lost away to UC Irvine 68-49 on Friday, Jan. 2 at Bren Events Center.
Having lost 12 of the last 13 meetings between these two teams, the Mustangs (2-9, 0-5 Big West) were looking to take advantage of a depleted UC Irvine (7-4, 3-0 Big West) squad that saw a third of the roster ineligible due to possible COVID-19 exposure.
The Anteaters opened the scoring with a three-point play from forward Collin Welp. The Mustangs responded immediately with a three from sophomore forward Alimamy Koroma, their top scorer so far this year.
Cal Poly took the lead three minutes into the game with a jumper from Koroma. This was followed by a four-point play from senior wing Mark Crowe, giving the Mustangs a 11-7 lead. UC Irvine came back with a vengeance, going on a 10-0 scoring streak over the next six minutes.
Cal Poly senior point guard Keith Smith reignited his team with a three pointer. Another three from Crowe cut the Anteaters’ lead down to seven, but mistakes would eventually cost the visitors. 11 turnovers in the first half by the Mustangs allowed the home side to firmly plant themselves in the lead going into the second half. With five minutes left in the first half UC Irvine possessed a 31-17 lead, and showed no signs of slowing down. Irvine closed out the half with a 16-point advantage, leading their competition 36-20.
Neither team was shooting particularly well, and the contest developed into a defensive struggle. UC Irvine used this to their advantage over the game, scoring 22 points from turnovers, compared to the Mustangs’ four.
A good start to the second half saw the Mustangs shorten their deficit to 10 points in the opening six minutes at 36-46. Unfortunately for Cal Poly, they were unable to capitalize on their momentum, as that was the closest they came to closing the gap.
Halfway through the second half the Anteaters took a commanding lead of 55-40. They went on to outscore Cal Poly 13-9 in the final ten minutes, winning with a final score of 68-49.
Although Cal Poly shot over 40% from beyond the arc, they struggled from the free-throw line at only 50% shooting. Koroma led the Mustangs with nine points and added five rebounds.
The Mustangs will have a chance at revenge tomorrow, when the two teams meet again at Bren Events Center on Saturday, Jan. 23.