Credit: Owen Roberts | Mustang News, 2023

Cal Poly Men’s Basketball finished Big West regular season play with a 73-72 loss to UC Riverside on Saturday, March 4 inside Mott Athletics Center. 

The Mustangs (7-24, 1-18 Big West) lost their 18th straight with multiple chances to close out the game but were once again denied victory in the final seconds by the Highlanders (21-11, 14-6 Big West).

The game was a back-and-forth affair throughout. The Mustangs finished the first half with momentum with a last-second dunk by junior center Bryan Penn-Johnson off an assist by sophomore guard Julien Franklin.

The game’s intensity increased in the second half. After a 29-28 Cal Poly lead at halftime, the game continued to sway between the two teams vying for control of the momentum.

In a frantic sequence to close the game, senior forward Alimamy Koroma drew an and-one with 51 seconds remaining to put the Mustangs up 61-60. The Highlanders responded with a pull-up jumper by guard Zyon Pullin.

With four seconds remaining, junior guard Brantly Stevenson was fouled on a drive to the hoop. Stevenson had an opportunity to give the Mustangs the lead at the end of regulation, trailing 62-61. 

Stevenson knocked down the first to tie up the game but missed the back end to leave the score knotted up at 62. The Highlanders secured the rebound and pushed the ball down the court for a half-court heave that ended up short and the game headed to overtime.

In overtime, both teams went at each other, trading buckets until the last few plays of the game.

UC Riverside forward Lachlan Olbrich, a 27% 3-point shooter, knocked down a three-pointer with 19 seconds remaining in OT to give UC Riverside the lead, 71-69.

Cal Poly regained possession and with six seconds remaining, Koroma was fouled going up for a layup. With Cal Poly down 71-69, Koroma missed the first free throw. He recovered and knocked down the second but the Mustangs still trailed by one. 

A quick Cal Poly foul by Franklin led to two Highlander free throws with four and a half seconds left on the clock. Highlanders guard Jamal Hartwell II knocked down both to give UC Riverside a 73-70 advantage. 

Down by three, Stevenson received the inbounds pass and drove down the length of the court. 

Despite trailing by three, Stevenson passed on the three-point attempt and instead drove for a layup to end the game. The Mustangs still trailed by one point but time expired and the Mustangs once again could not finish out the contest and lost, 73-72.

Despite the finish, Stevenson kept the Mustangs in the game and led the team with a career-high 32 points. Koroma added 19 points and five rebounds for Cal Poly.

Zyon Pullin led the Highlanders with 28 points and 10 rebounds on the night.

Cal Poly will begin the Big West Tournament as the 10th seed against Long Beach State, the seventh seed, on Tuesday, March 7 at 8:30 pm inside the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada.