Cal Poly Men’s Basketball faced its worst defeat of the season in a 97-64 loss to Big West opponent UC Riverside Thursday, Jan. 23 inside SRC Arena. The Mustangs remained close early on, but the Highlander’s three-point shooting was too much for Cal Poly as UC Riverside scored 16 shots from behind the arc on 53 percent shooting.
Cal Poly (4-14, 1-3 Big West) entered the game in search of a bounceback win after a tight 65-61 loss against Hawai’i last week. With the victory, UC Riverside (13-8, 3-2 Big West) broke a two-game losing slide in Big West play.
The game opened with both teams trading buckets early in the first quarter. Graduate guard Jamal Smith made a three-pointer two minutes into the game to put Cal Poly up 5-4. However, UC Riverside responded with a 12-2 run to secure early momentum and extend its lead to 16-7.
The first half continued to be a battle between scoring drives as both teams traded bursts over the next eight minutes. The back-and-forth play started with a 7-0 Mustang run highlighted by a steal and a layup from senior guard Job Alexander, who would finish the game with a season-high ten points. UC Riverside followed with a 15-2 explosion over a six minute period to take a 31-16 lead. Cal Poly scored eight of the game’s next nine points to pull themselves back within single-digits, cutting the lead to just eight points at 32-24.
The Highlanders started to take control of the game behind a 13-2 run with 5:06 remaining in the half. The scoring drive granted UC Riverside a 19-point lead at halftime, bringing the score to 48-29. Cal Poly shot 44 percent from the three-point range and 35 percent from the field in the first half, while UC Riverside shot 50 percent from outside the arc and 55 percent from the field.
UC Riverside’s lead continued to develop despite the Mustangs’ attempts to remain close behind. Sophomore guard Junior Ballard added to his team-leading performance of 16 points and 7 rebounds with a three-pointer late in the second half, but the shot failed to make an impact on the outcome of the game as Cal Poly ultimately fell, 97-64.
UC Riverside finished the night with four different players in double-digit scoring. The Highlanders were paced by redshirt junior Arinze Chidom, who had 18 points and 9 rebounds throughout the night. Efficiency was a key factor in UC Riverside’s victory as the Highlanders finished with 53 percent shooting from the field compared to Cal Poly’s 37 percent shooting.
Cal Poly will remain on the road to take on UC Irvine Saturday, January 25th at 7 p.m.