Credit: Eyasu Betwos | Mustang News

Cal Poly men’s basketball lost their first home game of the new year to UC Riverside 57-46 on Thursday, Jan. 13 inside Mott Athletic Center. 

Cal Poly (3-10, 0-2 Big West) extended their losing streak to four games with the loss to the Highlanders (8-5, 1-1 Big West) in a game that was separated by only two points with 10:05 left on the clock. 

Junior center Alimamy Koroma won the tip off and sent it to sophomore forward Kyle Colvin. After missed shots by both teams, sophomore point guard Camren Pierce opened up the game with a three pointer. Koroma put up six points within the first six minutes to put the Mustangs up 11-9.

UC Riverside went on to score ten straight points to take a 19-11 lead as both teams were facing troubles with non-shooting fouls, travels and other miscues in the first half. 

Halfway through the first half, freshman Daniel Esparza sent a bounce pass from the corner to Koroma, who posted up Callum McRae and dropped his eighth point. The story of the night was this physical game between Koroma and McRae near the hoop. 

 “I was just doing my job,” Koroma said about his battle with McRae. “My job was to stop him. Wall up. He’s a tough dude, pretty big, so I just did my job and tried to help my team win.” 

Despite the loss, Koroma ended the game one point shy of a double-double with 15 points and nine rebounds. He led all players in both categories. Koroma also helped keep the Highlanders center McRae to eight points.

After Koroma’s bucket, the Highlanders went on to score 10 straight points and ended the half up 32-22. Cal Poly went 1-5 on field goals in the last 3:49 of half and had eight turnovers.

Both teams came out of the halftime locker room slow, as the Mustangs went 0-5 and UC Riverside went 1-7 to start off the second half. 

However, Cal Poly began to mount a comeback. A steal by the 6-foot-10-inch forward Tuukka Jaakkola and the finish by Pierce tied the game at 34-34 with 13:49 remaining. 

After falling behind again, the Mustangs made it a two point game again with 10:05 left on the clock. 

After that moment, the game started to slip away from Cal Poly as the Mustangs struggled to hit a shot on the offensive end. They finished shooting 3-16 from the three point line on the night.

When asked about what the team will try to take into the next game, Pierce said the team needs to “get a complete 40 minutes.”

“That’s really what it is,” Pierce said. “You can’t play a 32, can’t play a 36, you got to play a full 40.” 

One positive to take away from the loss, according to head coach John Smith, was the team’s resiliency.

“We showed some resilience coming out of halftime,” Smith said. “However, we weren’t tough enough to get to the free throw line. We could not execute down the stretch. Getting to the free throw line better and being confident with our shots is our way to win.” 

Cal Poly will look to get back in the win column in their second straight home game against UC Davis on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. inside the Mott Athletic Center.

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