Ian Billings/Mustang News

Sophomore wing David Nwaba scored five points and grabbed a team-high six rebounds in a 71-55 loss to UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.

Evan Morter

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Cal Poly dropped the Big West regular season finale against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday 71-55 in the seniors’ final game at Mott Athletics Center (MAC).

Seniors Chris Eversley, Jamal Johnson and Kyle Odister found themselves on the wrong side of a lopsided game in their farewell to the Cal Poly faithful. The atmosphere in the MAC was electric at tipoff as a full-capacity crowd awaited the second chapter of this season’s Blue-Green Rivalry.

“Our fans are the absolute best,” Eversley said. “They stick through it through thick and thin. This is all I could have asked for as a senior. I will forever love this school and call it home. It was the proper sendoff for us.”

He paced the Mustangs (10-19, 6-10 Big West) with 14 points, while freshman guard Ridge Shipley scored eight. Eversley averaged a team-leading 13.7 points a game this season to go along with his 7.3 rebounds per contest.

“I love our kids so much because I never feel like there is a mistake made because of a lack of caring,” head coach Joe Callero said.

Cal Poly’s offensive struggles this season were exploited by the Gauchos on Saturday, who were led by center Alan Williams. Williams scored 23 points and collected 10 boards, but his largest influence in the game came on the other side of the floor with the contribution of five blocks on the night.

Williams forced the Mustangs into many ill-advised offensive decisions, which Callero said the team must focus on headed into the Big West Conference Tournament later this week.

“The emphasis is simply going to be on the patience and consistency that we need to have to be a good offensive team or a great offensive team, or a team that beats Santa Barbara on a neutral court in Anaheim,” Callero said.

The regular season drew to a close with the loss, while the first round of the conference tournament begins this Thursday. Saturday night’s result means the third chapter of the rivalry will unravel in the quarterfinals as the No. 7 seed Mustangs will face the Gauchos, No. 2.

The Mustangs were unable to create opportunities on the offensive end, and Cal Poly’s lights out 3-point shooting of the last meeting between these two teams was not replicated Saturday. Cal Poly finished shooting at 29.8 percent from the floor, compared to the Gauchos’ 55.6 percent clip.

The Gauchos jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the early going, but 3-pointers by juniors Michael Bolden and Anthony Silvestri spurred a 12-3 Cal Poly run to knot the scoreline at 18. But UC Santa Barbara went on a 15-0 run from there to eventually sink the Mustangs.

“The team has learned a lot throughout this season,” Johnson said. “We’re going to take everything we’ve learned and take it into the new season. We will capitalize the next time we face them.”

The anticipation of the conference tournament has turned into present time for the seniors, Eversley said.

“This is what myself, Jamal and Kyle have been training for for the last three, four years,” he said. “So this is big for us.”

Tip-off against UC Santa Barbara (21-8, 12-4 Big West) on Thursday is set for noon. The game will be televised live on Fox Prime Ticket.

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