Cal Poly Men’s Basketball fell to first-place UC Irvine 110-72 on Thursday, March 8 in Mott Athletics Center. UC Irvine’s 110 point-total was the highest Cal Poly had conceded in a match since 2001. The loss comes just one day after the announcement that Joe Callero will not return as head coach next season.
The Anteaters (26-5, 14-1 Big West) entered the game with intensity and jumped to an 11-2 lead behind three-pointers from Evan Leonard and Robert Cartwright. However, layups from junior guard Job Alexander and senior guard Marcellus Garrick drew the Mustangs (6-22, 2-13 Big West) within five points at 11-6. Minutes later, Garrick converted a three-pointer with 13:47 left in the half. Senior point guard Donovan Fields followed with a jump-shot to bring the match within one point at 15-14.
UC Irvine’s response, an 8-0 run, was almost extinguished by a pair of jump-shots from Fields and a layup from Alexander, but the effort fell short. The game’s momentum eventually fell to the Anteaters in a decisive 15-point drive with just over six minutes remaining in the first half. By the time the halftime whistle was blown, UC Irvine had expanded their lead to 58-32. The second half was no different as the Anteaters continued to convert their shots. The relentless attack granted UC Irvine a 48-point lead with only seven minutes remaining in the match. Garrick capped the Mustangs’ scoring with a free-throw, layup and two three-pointers as the game drew to it’s 110-72 conclusion.
Callero said in his ten years at Cal Poly, UC Irvine’s current team is one of the best he has coached against in the Big West Conference.
“I think you’ve got to give them a ton of credit,” Callero said. “They have great size, great depth and incredible discipline. I give them all the credit […] I think we’ll see a much better opportunity on Saturday.”
Garrick registered eight of 16 floor shots and seven of 10 free throws for his second highest career total of 27 points. Fields added 19 points and five assists while sophomore wing Mark Crowe totaled 13 points. The match stood as the 22nd game this season in which Fields has scored in double-digits. The star point-guard currently needs one more assist to become the first player in program history with 1,000 points, 300 assists and 100 steals.
All five UC Irvine starters scored in double-digits as the team sunk 48 of 87 floor shots for a 55 percent success rate. The Anteaters also compiled 24 offensive rebounds compared to Cal Poly’s eight. UC Irvine, who clinched the Big West regular-season title last week, improved to 14-1 in conference play.
Cal Poly’s loss against UC Irvine makes their final game against UC Santa Barbara a must-win. If the Mustangs fail to defeat their Blue-Green rival, they will not qualify for the Big West Tournament for the first time since 2009. With post-season on the line, Cal Poly’s senior night is set to be an emotional one.
“It’s going to be me, [Field’s] and [Kuba Niziol’s] last time playing in Mott,” Garrick said. “We’re just going to have fun, play hard and play to win. We’ve got to understand that we need to leave it all out there. We have nothing to lose.”
Cal Poly’s final regular season game against UC Santa Barbara will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Mott Athletics Center.