Cal Poly Men’s Basketball let a late lead slip away in a 74-67 loss to UC Irvine Saturday, Jan. 25 inside Bren Events Center. The Mustangs (4-15, 1-4 Big West) led by four points in the second half, but were outscored 16-9 by the Anteaters (12-9, 4-1) in the final five minutes.
Sophomore guard Junior Ballard led the Mustangs with a team-high 17 points against the defending Big West Champions.
UC Irvine opened the scoring with a 15-5 run five minutes into the first half, earning its biggest lead of the game. However, back-to-back three-pointers by redshirt freshman forward Kyle Colvin and Ballard cut the lead to 15-11.
Just two minutes later, Colvin scored another pair of three-pointers to level the game at 17-17 with 10:30 left in the first half. Ballard and Colvin combined for Cal Poly’s first 17 points.
The Anteaters quickly responded with a 5-1 run to regain their lead at 22-18 at the eight minute mark.
Playing in his fifth game back from injury, redshirt junior forward Nolan Taylor made a layup to give the Mustangs their first lead at 24-23 with 6:50 until halftime.
UC Irvine responded yet again, retaking the lead with a 6-0 run. Then, sophomore forward Tuuka Jaakkola scored a layup to even the game at 29-29 with 3:30 remaining in the half.
Thanks to 12 points from center Brad Greene and 11 points from guard Evan Leonard, UC Irvine led 38-35 at halftime.
Cal Poly kept up with UC Irvine thanks to 13 points from Ballard and nine points from Colvin. In the first half, the Mustangs made 6 of 10 three-point attempts while keeping the Anteaters to 2 for 10 from beyond the arc.
Redshirt junior guard Keith Smith opened the second half with a two-point jumper to put the Mustangs within one point from the Anteaters. Graduate guard Jamal Smith scored a jump shot of his own, followed by a free throw, to level the score again at 40-40.
Through the second half, the lead changed seven times and the teams tied five times as the game remained close. A three-pointer by junior wing Mark Crowe tied the game at 58-58 with 4:55 remaining on the clock. But then the Anteaters pulled away with a 12-5 run to extend their lead to 70-63 with 2:05 on the clock.
The teams exchanged free throws to end the game in a 74-67 UC Irvine win.
Cal Poly returns to Mott Athletics Center on Thursday, Jan. 30th to take on Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m. This will be the first meeting between the Mustangs and head coach John Smith’s and Jamal Smith’s former team, the Titans.