Cal Poly men’s basketball lost a defensive battle to the University of San Diego Toreros 52-51 on Sunday, Dec. 5 inside Jenny Craig Pavilion.

The Toreros (5-5) led for most of the game against the Mustangs (2-6), who suffered their fourth loss by three or less points this season. 

The Mustangs came out on a 6-0 run to start the game, but San Diego answered and made two three pointers to get the Toreros rolling offensively. 

Around the nine minute mark, San Diego freshmen Wayne McKinney III hit a three pointer and on the next possession made an and-one layup on a fastbreak. Those two plays ignited a 17-7 run in favor of the Toreros to finish out the first half and give them a 31-22 lead. 

The San Diego three-point shooting and full court press gave the Mustangs issues in the first half, but Cal Poly came out of halftime strong as junior center Alimamy Koroma scored a layup to open up the half and start a 7-0 run.

However, San Diego immediately responded and kept a sizable lead until sophomore guard Brantly Stevenson helped bring Cal Poly back after making some pull-up jumpers and slashing to the basket. 

With two minutes left in the game, junior point guard Camren Pierce dished the ball to Stevenson, who made a corner three to cut the Torero lead to 52-48. Pierce finished the game with a team-high eight assists.

After an unsuccessful possession by San Diego, Pierce made a timely three of his own with the shot clock winding down to bring Cal Poly to within one. The Toreros then missed a layup and the Mustangs had a chance to go ahead. Pierce drove to the basket on the Mustangs’ last full offensive possession and missed a tough layup. 

San Diego missed a free throw, which opened the window for a late miracle. However, Pierce’s half court heave was off-line and Cal Poly came up just short at 52-21.

Koroma led the Mustangs in scoring with 17 points while Stevenson finished with 14 points of his own.

The Toreros, who were missing two starters, found a scoring boost from McKinney. He scored a career-high 17 points and made three shots from beyond the arc. Senior forward Marcellus Earlington added in 14 points for San Diego. 

Cal Poly shot better from the field, but the 11 free throws by the Toreros compared to three of the Mustangs proved to be the difference. San Diego also dominated the three-point shooting, converting five more from distance than Cal Poly.

The Mustangs will look to bounce back against Portland State on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m inside Viking Pavilion.

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