Cal Poly Men’s Basketball fell to UC Davis 77-62 Thursday, Feb. 20 inside Mott Athletics Center. After a close first half, UC Davis (13-15, 7-5 Big West) pulled away by limiting Cal Poly (7-19, 4-8 Big West) to 35 percent shooting from the field in the second half.
Sophomore guard Junior Ballard and junior redshirt guard Keith Smith co-led the Mustangs with 11 points each while freshman guard Colby Rogers followed with 10. The loss held Cal Poly to a tie for eighth place in the Big West Conference standings and simultaneously snapped the Mustangs’ four-game winning streak at home.
“Our initial fight was good, but it always felt like we were on our heels,” head coach John Smith said. “It was a two-point game, and it felt like it was a twenty-two point game.”
The first half saw back-and-forth play from start to finish as both teams shot 11 of 22 from the field. Cal Poly made 7 of 14 shot attempts from the three-point range, but UC Davis kept pace by capitalizing on its free throw opportunities. The Aggies went to the free throw line 15 times and converted 10 of their attempts, while Cal Poly only made it to the charity stripe five times.
Strong defensive play on both sides kept the teams close in the opening minutes of the game. Graduate guard Jamal Smith scored Cal Poly’s second straight three-pointer two and a half minutes into the game to give the Mustangs an early 6-4 lead. Cal Poly took their largest lead of the game at 20-15 through a three-pointer by Ballard with 8:50 remaining in the half.
Davis responded on the following play with a jump shot by Stefan Gonzalez, who led the game with 18 points on 78 percent shooting. Rogers momentarily recaptured the lead for the Mustangs with a long jump shot at the top of the key, but a three-point play by Gonzalez with three seconds on the clock gave UC Davis a 34-32 lead at the half.
The second half started with a turnover and missed shot from each team. The first points of the half came two minutes in on a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Tuukka Jaakkola. Gonzalez went on a 5-0 run by himself to give the Aggies a five-point lead at 39-34. The Mustangs responded with a 9-2 run capped off by a massive slam dunk by senior guard Job Alexander to give Cal Poly a 43-41 lead.
With 11:25 left in the game, Keith Smith hit a three-pointer to give Cal Poly its final lead of the game at 46-45. The three-pointer also marked the 16th and final lead change between the two teams. Over the last five minutes and 35 seconds of the game, UC Davis went on a 20-8 run to ensure its victory. The Mustangs scored just one field goal in the final seven minutes before ultimately falling, 77-62.
UC Davis converted 60 percent of their shot attempts from the field and the three-point range in the second half. The Aggies bench also played a pivotal role in the game, outscoring the Mustang bench 39-26. The Aggies’ bench scoring combined with a 28-18 difference on points in the paint proved to be too much for the Mustangs.
“We just gotta keep fighting, take it day-by-day, don’t look too far ahead,” Rogers said. “Try to play hard for a full 40 minutes against Riverside, and hope for the best.”
Cal Poly will look to bounce back against UC Riverside Saturday Feb. 22 inside Mott Athletics Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.