Credit: Eyasu Betwos | Mustang News

Cal Poly men’s basketball lost in double-overtime to CSUN by a score of 83-78 on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022 inside Mott Athletics Center. 

The Mustangs (5-16, 1-8 Big West) crawled back into the game against CSUN (6-16, 2-7 Big West) after being down eight points with just 25 seconds left in the game. Off the heels of a game-tying, step back three-pointer by sophomore guard Brantly Stevenson to force overtime, the Mustangs eventually fell in the second overtime period.

“I’ve been in this situation before; once I felt I was open I just took that shot and once I saw it in the air I knew it was going in,” Stevenson said about his game-tying buzzer beater. 

Cal Poly started out Thursday’s matchup against CSUN slow, as the Mustangs trailed 26-15 seven minutes into the game.

The Mustangs got outplayed physically and had several turnovers throughout the first 10 minutes of the matchup. Cal Poly had seven turnovers in nine minutes of play and ended the half with 11 turnovers.

In the last half of the first, the Mustangs tightened up on defense. They were avoiding pick and rolls and left few lanes for CSUN to pass through. 

A highlight of the defense was a swat by Stevenson, which led to a fast break for sophomore point guard Camren Pierce. Pierce finished his difficult layup with creativity to make the score 28-21 in favor of the Matadors

Even though the Mustangs cut the lead to six at 30-24 at halftime, they only had one offensive rebound, 11 turnovers and shot 16.7% from three-point range. 

Early in the second half, the Matadors went on an 11-point run which put them up 41-28.

The Mustangs started to pick it up with a play from Pierce that drew the defense down to the baseline and opened up a pass to junior big man Alimamy Koroma, who euro-stepped to the hoop for the finish. 

Koroma went to the line a handful of times in the second half and scored six points on free throws.

With little time left, Stevenson fought for a steal and sophomore guard Kobe Sanders put up a three to cut CSUN’s lead to four.

Stevenson stole the inbound and the Mustangs immediately called time out. Following a foul, Stevenson went 2-2 on free throws to make the score 58-56 with eight seconds left. 

“[Stevenson] showed his true character – he is a fighter and competitor,” head coach John Smith said. “It was good to see that come out.”

Freshman point guard Hayden Jory checked into the game and intentionally fouled to put the Matadors at the free-throw line. They missed the first free throw and made the second. 

With four seconds left, Stevenson got the ball at half court. He drove in against a double team and stepped back for an off-the-glass three-pointer to send the game into overtime.

“In overtime, that’s when our competitive spirit picked up,” Stevenson said. “We got guys knocking down shots.” 

Junior guard Trevon Taylor made a couple of nice shots in overtime to help the Mustangs offensively. 

The Mustangs’ defensive awareness in this high pressure situation helped them beat out a pick and roll, as Koroma contested a Matador’s shot and Stevenson came down the defensive rebound. 

The game was tied 65-65 with 16.7 seconds left. 

With a difficult finish by Stevenson, the Mustangs were up by a basket with three seconds left. 

The Matadors then threw up a three-pointer that missed but were able to secure the put-back to force double overtime. 

In double overtime, the score was tied again at 71-71. Elijah Hardy made two clutch threes on back-to-back possessions for CSUN. 

“We did not play good defense in [double overtime], we were letting shooters get open,” Koroma said.

Down five, Sanders hit a three to make it a one-score game. The Matadors got a backcourt violation on a loose ball, but Cal Poly could not capitalize on the opportunity.

With 23 seconds left, the Mustangs couldn’t tie the game and lost 83-78 in double overtime. 

When asked who stood out tonight, coach Smith said Sanders stepped up in the second half, the team leaned on Koroma for offense, but ultimately they were hurt by Pierce fouling out of the game.

Coach Smith described Pierce as “the engine that makes us go.”

Cal Poly takes on 2021 Big West champions UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. inside Mott Athletics Center in another blue-green rivalry game. 

“It’s a rivalry game and if you can’t get up for that, then you probably don’t need to be here,” coach Smith said.

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