Junior wing Michael Bolden scored a career-high 13 points in a 69-64 win at Mott Athletics Center on Saturday night.
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The Cal Poly men’s basketball team ended a four-game home skid on Saturday with a 69-64 victory against UC Riverside at Mott Athletics Center.
The game began with junior wing Michael Bolden converting his first four 3-point field goals, and he carried a hot hand throughout the night to grab a career-high 13 points in 31 minutes of action.
“It always feels good to hit the first shot,” Bolden said. “It’s always a confidence builder. I just kept getting open shots. My teammates were finding me and setting great screens as well.”
After coming off the bench for most of the year, Bolden earned his second start of the season on Saturday, but his approach remained the same heading into the starting five, he said.
“My head is always in the same place,” Bolden said. “Whether I’m coming off the bench or starting, I’m just ready to go in and contribute.”
For the transfer from Irvine Valley College, his first season as a Mustang has been a roller coaster, he said.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “There’s tough times and good times, but the tough times don’t last, so you just fight through until you see the sunlight. The darkness can’t last forever.”
Bolden began the season included in the Cal Poly rotation, averaging 11.2 minutes per game in the first ten games of the season. However, just as the junior wing was gaining comfort in a Cal Poly uniform, he injured his ankle.
“Then he came back, and I think it really bothered him,” head coach Joe Callero said. “His timing was off. He wasn’t defending on the ball very well. But opportunity occurs because of injury sometimes.”
Senior Kyle Odister, who did not play in Saturday’s game, has been plagued by a foot fracture for the second half of the year.
Bolden, who picked up Odister’s minutes, was overlooked in most games this season until he received his first start in the Big West play against UC Irvine on Feb. 1.
“Michael Bolden stepped up tonight and really gave us those key perimeter baskets that we’ve been lacking when Kyle Odister is out of the game,” Callero said.
His resilience is what landed him the starting spot on Saturday, Bolden said.
“It’s just staying consistent and when things get hard, just keep fighting and never give up.” Bolden said. “That’s how I’ve always been.”
Senior forward Chris Eversley, who lives with Bolden, praised his housemate’s competitiveness.
“One word I use to describe Mike is ‘perseverance’,” Eversley said. “Those types of guys are the ones that are going to help us get this championship.”
The Mustangs earned the much-needed victory led by Bolden’s career night and the 22 points from their catalyst, Eversley.
Eversley found himself shooting too many shots from long range during the Mustangs’ struggles and now has regained his confidence on both ends of the floor, he said.
“Just being able to step up and be that guy that can facilitate and help others create when they get in trouble is important,” Eversley said. “It feels good to be multi-dimensional.”
Cal Poly is going to need Eversley’s efficiency, Callero said.
“We, as a team, know the ball is going to go to Chris Eversley,” he said.
“Three weeks from tonight I hope we’re playing basketball still,” Callero said. “That would be the championship game of the Big West Conference. But we have a lot of work to do here still. We need to get our team figured out.”
Cal Poly (10-16, 6-7 Big West) will go on the road next week to take on UC Davis on Thursday and UC Irvine on Saturday night. The Mustangs will then close the season at home as Cal Poly hosts rival UC Santa Barbara.
The Mustangs are tied for fifth place with Cal State Northridge and their 6-7 record in conference play.
The Big West Conference Tournament takes place March 13-15 in Anaheim, Calif.