Rafael Salinas
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Stifling defense and big shots at critical moments led the Cal Poly men’s basketball team to its 16th consecutive home Big West Conference victory on Thursday night in Mott Athletics Center. Both Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly came into the game undefeated in Big West Conference play.

The Mustangs came out on top 62-52 in a game which proved to be as competitive as advertised. David Nwaba finished the game with a team-high 16 points and senior guard Kyle Odister added 14 points of his own.

Stephan Hicks led Cal State Northridge with 16 points. Tre Hale-Emerson added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Matadors, as well.

The victory pushed Cal Poly to 3-0 in conference play, which matches its best start to a Big West season in program history.

It was Nwaba’s team-leading 11th double-digit scoring performance this season. Odister, meanwhile, went 4 of 4 from beyond the arc.

The game was physical and fast paced from the beginning as the Mustangs took the lead at the 14:24 mark of the first half and never looked back. However, the Matadors kept the game remained close throughout.

“Emotional maturity, when a team makes a run, we don’t panic,” head coach Joe Callero said of his team’s ability to put the game away.

Ian Billings/Mustang News

Sophomore wing David Nwaba scored two of his team-leading 16 points with a dunk to help the Cal Poly men’s basketball team to a 62-52 win over Cal State Northridge on Thursday.

The Mustang’s defense was what made the difference against Cal State Northridge. Coming in, the Matadors had a 47.7 field goal percentage and led the Big West in three point shooting percentage at 39.2, but Cal Poly held them to 34.9 percent from the field and didn’t allow any 3-pointers. The Mustangs held the Big West Player of the Week, Stephen Maxwell, to just eight points.

“We just had to turn it up on defense, every stop counts,” Nwaba said.

The Mustangs scored seven points off ten turnovers. The Mustangs had seven turnovers for the game while point guard Jamal Johnson, who had six assists and nine points, didn’t commit any.

The big shots came when they mattered for the Mustangs. With a one-point lead with 4:20 to go in the second half, Odister hit a key  3-pointer to put Cal Poly ahead by four and went on to hit another 3 with 1:57 to go.

“When the game is close, I find it exciting and fun,” said Odister when asked about his shots down the stretch. “Everybody has a lot of confidence because we had one of the toughest schedules in the nation.”

That schedule included games against then-No. 5 Arizona, No. 14 Oregon, Pittsburgh and Sanford on the Mustangs’ non-conference schedule.

“We come out here and play against a really good Hawaii team, a really good Santa Barbara team, a really good Northridge team,” Callero said. “Well, we’re used to that.”

The Mustangs were able to get open looks throughout the night as they shot 45 percent from 3-point range on nine of 20 shooting and 40.4 percent overall.

“The reason we got those threes, we got the ball inside more consistently,” Callero said.

The Mustangs are carrying the momentum from wins against Hawaii, UC Santa Barbara, and Cal State Northridge into Saturday’s conference matchup against Long Beach State. The Mustangs look to get off to an unprecedented 4-0 start to conference play.

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