UC Riverside dominated the second half and handled Cal Poly by a score of 86-51 on Friday, Jan. 15th inside Mott Athletics Center.
The loss puts the Mustangs at a 2-7 start this season, including a 0-3 record in the Big West. The Highlanders improved their record to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference.
Despite the final score, the game was very back and forth in the first half. The game was kicked off by a hot start from sophomore forward Alimamy Koroma. Koroma scored the first 11 points for the Mustangs, including three shots from behind the arc, to give Cal Poly an early 11-6 lead.
After Koroma’s quick start, the Mustangs maintained a lead until UC Riverside tied the game up at 19-19 with 8:21 remaining in the half. In total, there were four lead changes throughout the first half and the game was tied on three separate occasions.
With 1:27 remaining in the half, senior point guard Keith Smith converted a three-point play with a layup through contact and the ensuing free throw, breaking a 34-34 tie and giving Cal Poly a 37-34 advantage. The Mustangs went into the locker room at halftime with a 37-36 lead.
At the half, Koroma and Riverside forward Arinze Chidom led all scorers with 11 points apiece. Senior wing Mark Crowe also had nine points of his own. Cal Poly finished the half shooting 48% from the field and 44% from three, while the Highlanders converted on 47% of their attempts including only 25% from beyond the arc.
However, this game was a tale of two halves as UC Riverside came out of the break on fire and could not be contained. The Mustangs were outscored 50-14 in the second half, due in large part to the spectacular three point shooting by the Highlanders and the struggling offense of Cal Poly.
In the second half, UC Riverside went 10 for 17 from three-point land while the Mustangs could only manage to get four of their 31 shots to fall. The Highlanders also dominated the paint in the second half, outrebounding Cal Poly 28 to 17.
Koroma and Crowe were the only Mustangs to reach double digit points in the matchup with 15 and 10, respectively. Meanwhile, UC Riverside had five players reach that mark.
Friday’s overall poor shooting performance continued the Mustangs’ struggles offensively this year. Cal Poly is shooting just 39.3% from the field and 28% from three on the young season, down from 42.1% and 34.9% respectively in 2019-20.
Cal Poly will try to even up the season series as they take on the Highlanders again on Saturday, Jan. 16th inside Mott Athletics Center.