Cal Poly men’s basketball fell to the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 69-64 inside Mott Athletics Center on Saturday, Feb. 12.
The Mustangs (5-17, 1-9 Big West) dropped another closely contested game this week to the Gauchos (11-9, 3-4 Big West).
The Mustangs jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead to start the game. Sophomore guard Camren Pierce hit a stepback jumper and took a charge on the other end to ignite the run as junior big man Alimamy Koroma added a hook shot from the low block as well.
On defense, Cal Poly chased UC Santa Barbara’s shooters around screens, prevented them from getting shots off and played solid on-ball defense.
UCSB responded by hitting two consecutive threes to cut the lead, but Cal Poly was able to keep the Gauchos at bay for a few minutes.
However, Josh Pierre-Louis of UCSB took advantage of the Mustangs, hitting two consecutive threes to gave the Gauchos their first lead.
Cal Poly kept the deficit to a one-possession game, but UCSB’s Amadou Sow hit a jumper at the halftime buzzer to make it a five-point lead, 33-28.
In the second half, neither team was able to create any separation. The game stayed within ten points, but Cal Poly was never able to cut the lead below five points the entire rest of the way.
The Mustangs struggled offensively in the second half. They shot 41% from the field and 20% from three.
When asked about how to sustain their offense the whole game, sophomore guard Brantly Stevenson said, “We gotta keep our energy up. We came out strong. If we kept that momentum up the whole game consistently we would’ve won easily.”
The team also had difficulty getting leading-scorer Koroma involved on offense. UCSB was physical with him in the post and sent double-teams at him to force the ball out of his hands.
“I could’ve finished a lot better,” Koroma said. “I feel like I didn’t lead my team offensively and defensively.”
Cal Poly cut the lead to five with 2:11 left in the game after a three-pointer by sophomore combo guard Kobe Sanders and two free throws from junior guard Trevon Taylor, but UCSB point guard Ajay Mitchell hit a contested three late in the shot clock to end the Mustangs’ run.
The Gauchos, who were in the NCAA tournament last year, were able to close out the game 69-64.
“They’re just a little bit more of a mature, deeper team than us,” head coach John Smith said. “We’re depleted roster-wise and we are young roster-wise. We gotta learn how to win those games and the only way you learn it is go through it.”
“That’s an NCAA tournament team with guys that played in the tournament last year. They understood how to adjust to the refs and how to get to the free-throw line a little more then us.”
Taylor led all Cal Poly scorers with 15 points and secured seven offensive boards. Stevenson carried over his scoring from the last game against CSUN with 14 points while Koroma and Pierce finished with ten apiece.
Cal Poly will look to build momentum before conference play ends against UC Davis on Thursday, Feb. 17 inside Hickey Gymnasium.