Freshman guard Colby Rogers hit an overtime game-winner for the second time this season as Cal Poly Men’s Basketball took down Hawai’i 79-75 Saturday, Feb. 8 inside Mott Athletics Center.
Cal Poly (7-16, 4-5 Big West) led by as much as 15 points in the second half before Hawai’i (14-8, 5-3 Big West) forced overtime with a late scoring drive in the last seven minutes of regulation. Sophomore guard Junior Ballard scored a team-high 15 points as Cal Poly collected its fourth straight home win.
“It’s nice to win at Mott,” Rogers said. “We’ve won two in a row and we’re really hitting our stride going into the thick of conference play and I think this is big for us, its big for the organization and for the future to show people that we’re coming.”
Hawai’i opened the scoring with a hookshot jumper by sophomore center Dawson Crawford before Cal Poly responded with a pair of free throws to tie the game at 2-2. Both teams continued to trade points as the lead changed six times within the first five minutes of the half.
Hawai’i broke the deadlock with a 7-0 run led by senior guard Eddie Stansberry, but a three-point play by freshman forward Alimamy Koroma cut the Mustangs’ deficit to 15-12. Hawai’i continued to convert its chances until an 11-2 run extended the Rainbow Warriors lead to 29-16.
Cal Poly produced its first scoring drive of the night in an 8-1 run to pull back within single digits at 30-24, but a three-pointer from Hawai’i guard Justin Webster broke the Mustangs’ momentum. Both teams traded points to end the half as Cal Poly went into the break trailing 39-32.
Sophomore forward Tuukka Jaakkola opened the second half with a pair of free throws to make it a five-point game at 39-34. After trading points to a score of 46-43, graduate wing Malek Harwell found a quick pass to Rogers, who hit a three-point jumper to even the game at 46 apiece.
Following a layup from Hawai’i guard Drew Buggs, the Mustangs took control of the game with a commanding 17-0 run led by Jaakola, Ballard and a pair of layups from senior guard Job Alexander. The scoring drive granted Cal Poly a 63-48 lead with 7:38 remaining in regulation.
“We found a lineup that works well against them when we were in Hawai’i and we got to that lineup, as you saw, in the second half,” head coach John Smith said. “We just went small and tried to run by them and make our game impact more so than their size.”
Despite being down by 15 points, the Rainbow Warriors responded with an equally imposing 19-4 run to tie the game once again at 67-67 with 1:08 remaining. Rogers scored a jump shot on the next possession to take the lead, but Buggs hit a layup on the other end to send the game into overtime at 69-69.
After exchanging buckets to a score of 72-72, Hawai’i took the overtime lead with a three-pointer from Webster with 1:02 remaining. However, graduate guard Jamal Smith hit a hookshot jumper from the paint to pull the Mustangs within one point at 75-74. Smith was fouled on the play and missed the ensuing free throw to tie the game, but Jaakkola collected the offensive board to keep possession for the Mustangs.
With just 25 seconds remaining, Ballard dribbled toward the arc with two Hawai’i defenders closing in. Ballard made a quick pass to Rogers, who scored the go-ahead three-point jumper to put the Mustangs up 77-75. Cal Poly forced a turnover before Rogers sealed the 79-75 win with a pair of free throws in the final ten seconds of the game.
“I don’t even know if [Rogers] is a freshman anymore, we’re gonna have to check that,” Jamal said jokingly. “It’s great … I’m just happy he’s playing like a [veteran], like he’s been in this conference for five years. It’s exciting to see. I’m proud of him.”
While coach Smith said the team still needs to get better at finishing off games and rebounding, he also pointed out the importance of the win over the second-place team in the Big West standings.
”To show the resolve, the fight, to not give up in the overtime period and get out a win is phenomenal for a young team and a team that’s just learning how to play together,” Smith said.
Cal Poly will be on the road for its next game against CSUN on Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.