Cal Poly men’s basketball suffered a heartbreaking 61-60 loss to the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners on Tuesday, Feb. 22 inside Mott Athletics Center.
“I am proud of the team’s resiliency, but the next step in order to win is that you have to have a resilient mindset but then you have to be tough and we broke down in that area,” head coach John Smith said.
Despite a four point Mustang (5-19, 1-11 Big West) lead with 1:35 remaining, the Roadrunners (7-15, 2-10 Big West) scored five consecutive points including the game-winning free throw to pull out the narrow victory.
The Mustangs jumped out to an early 7-2 lead before the Roadrunners tied the game at 7-7. Cal Poly held a 16-13 advantage in the opening ten minutes behind sophomore point guard Camren Pierce’s three assists.
The game was tied once again when junior forward Alimamy Koroma ended a six-minute Cal Poly scoring drought with a made free throw to even the score at 17-17 with 6:20 remaining in the first half. However, CSUB closed out the half on a 13-5 run to lead 30-22 at the break.
The opening minutes of the second went back-and-forth. Sophomore guard Brantly Stevenson cut the Roadrunner lead to 39-33 with a dunk before two made CSUB jumpers gave them a double-digit advantage, which forced the Mustangs to call a timeout.
After the timeout, the Mustangs scored nine consecutive points to cut the lead to 43-42.
“I am proud that we fought,” Pierce said. “We just kept going and kept going. No matter what the runs were and what was going on in the game we just kept fighting.”
The Mustangs took their first lead of the game at 46-45 with 9:31 remaining thanks to a Stevenson jumper. This was their first lead since they led 16-15 in the first half.
After the Roadrunners quickly retook the lead, the Mustangs tied the game 56-56 with 4:06 remaining. After two made Koroma free throws, Pierce made a layup to give the Mustangs a 60-56 advantage with 1:35 remaining. However, CSUB closed out the game with five unanswered points, and guard Kaleb Higgins sank the winning free throw with six seconds to give them the 61-60 victory.
Junior guard Trevon Taylor collected a team-high 14 points and Koroma recorded another 10 points while Pierce added a game-high seven assists in the Mustang loss.
Cal Poly will look to bounce back when they travel on the road to play the University of Hawai’i on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 9 p.m.