Mustang News Staff Report
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Junior guard David Nwaba stole the show Saturday night with a masterful 21-point performance, but No. 8 Gonzaga snuck away with the win, beating the Mustangs 63-50 in the 2014 Battle in Seattle.
Nwaba added five rebounds and four steals to go along with his game-high and season-best point total inside the KeyArena. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior guard rattled off eight of those points in the first five minutes, tearing apart the Gonzaga zone defense with four straight layups.
Junior forward Brian Bennett added nine points and three rebounds in the game to follow up his season-high 19 points against Northeastern last time out.
Cal Poly (5-5) finished with 28 rebounds on the night, keeping pace with a highly touted Gonzaga team that boasts five players over 6-foot-7, including two seven-footers. The Bulldogs (10-1) had 33 rebounds on the night and weren’t able to record an offensive board until 11 minutes into the game.
Cal Poly found itself up 13-9 at the 10-minute mark following a three-ball by sophomore guard Ridge Shipley. The Mustangs played a faster and cleaner game early against a Bulldogs team that came out of the gate flat.
Gonzaga, however, settled in late in the first half to claw back and take a 22-17 lead with four minutes to go. Cal Poly mustered only a three-pointer from junior guard Reese Morgan the rest of the way and settled for a 26-22 deficit going into the break.
Morgan finished with seven points and a game-high tying five rebounds.
Consecutive three-pointers from senior guard Kevin Pangos got the Gonzaga lead to double digits for the first time early in the second half. However, Cal Poly and Nwaba weren’t done yet, cutting the deficit down to four with an 8-0 run that featured a dunk by the game-leader as well a three-pointer from Bennett on his only attempt from behind the arc on the night.
The Gonzaga offense ended up providing just enough down the line, outscoring the Mustangs 35-30 in the second half to steal a game in which its zone defense was at times exposed by Cal Poly’s quick play.
The Mustangs were also able to hold Gonzaga, a team that reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament last season and has averaged close to 86 points a game so far this year, to under 65 points — only the second time that’s happened to the Zags this year.
On the other hand, Cal Poly committed a season-high 16 turnovers, a number that will bring up its previous NCAA-leading average of 7.1 turnovers per game.
The Mustangs drop to 7-3 in their last ten games held at neutral sites. The game was the first time the two teams have met and means Cal Poly has now played every team in the potent West Coast Conference at least once.
Cal Poly still owns just one victory against a ranked opponent in 21 Division I seasons, a 70-68 win at No. 11 UCLA in 2012.
Cal Poly will play game five of its longest-ever seven-game road trip Tuesday at 2 p.m. when it closes the 48th annual Cable Car Classic against Santa Clara on Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. inside the Leavey Center.