In their second-to-last conference game of the season, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team fell 72-62 in a game Thursday night at UC Irvine in the Bren Events Center.
The Mustangs (10-18, 4-11 Big West) looked to recover from their last matchup against the Anteaters (23-8, 12-3), a close 78-72 overtime loss at home on Feb. 3, but were unable to compete against the No. 2 Big West Conference team.
Senior guard David Nwaba scored early and often, recording the Mustangs’ first bucket 15 seconds into the game and finishing the night with a career-high 25 points as well as 10 rebounds. Nwaba, who joined the Mustangs as a transfer before the 2014-15 season, became the 23rd men’s basketball player to reach 1,000 career points at Cal Poly.
Cal Poly rallied from an eight-point deficit with three minutes left in the first half. A three-point play from Nwaba, a couple baskets from senior forward Brian Bennett and a trey from freshman guard Jaylen Shead knotted the game up at 31-31 at the beginning of the second half.
The Mustangs continued to score, leading 37-33 with 18 minutes left in the game. But UC Irvine went on a tear led by senior forward Mike Best, who dropped 13 of his 19 points in the second half.
Senior guard Reese Morgan closed the gap in the game’s final three minutes, putting the Mustangs within four points of the Anteaters after a series of free throws.
UCI quickly responded with four more points to boost their lead to 66-58 and continued to score, leaving Cal Poly unable to keep up throughout the rest of the game.
The Anteaters shot 57 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc in the entire game, while Cal Poly shot 33 percent overall and 18 percent from behind the three-point line.
The Mustangs now rank seventh out of eight Big West Conference teams. Their last game is on Saturday at UC Santa Barbara at 4 p.m.