Cal Poly isn’t exactly known as a basketball school, although you wouldn’t know it from the raucous crowd of 2,881 fans that packed Mott Gym on Thursday night.
To the delight of the Mustang faithful, Cal Poly extended its winning streak to six games after trouncing Cal State Northridge 86-70.
The victory put the Mustangs at 17-10 overall and 8-5 in Big West Conference play. The 17 wins marks a school record since moving to Division I in 1994-95. More importantly, it assures the Mustangs a first-round bye in next week’s Big West Tournament.
The loss dropped the Matadors to 14-15 and 4-5 in the Big West.
Cal Poly came out scorching in the opening minutes, capitalizing on the hot hand of senior forward Tyler McGinn and storming to a 12-0 lead in the first two minutes. McGinn hit his first five shots, including three from behind the arc to score 11 of the Mustangs’ first 15 points.
McGinn finished the game 7 of 11 from the field with 19 points to lead the Mustangs.
When asked what worked so well for the Mustangs in the early minutes, senior forward Derek Stockalper replied, “Tyler McGinn was working for us tonight. Tyler is a great shooter, people should have realized by that now.”
Stockalper was no slouch either, matching McGinn’s 7-of-11 pace and hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range for 18 points on the evening. The pair combined to go 8 for 13 from behind the arc, good for 61 percent in the contest.
Cal Poly was lights out from downtown as a team, going 12 for 26 for, seven points up from their season average of 39.3 percent.
Cal Poly also shot 53 percent for the game, with four players in double figures. McGinn and Stockalper aside, guards Dawin Whiten and Trae Clark chipped in with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
“They’re tough,” Northridge coach Bobby Braswell said, adding, “they are playing as well, if not better than anyone in the conference right now. If they shoot like this in the (Big West) tournament, they are capable of beating anyone.”
The Mustangs capitalized on the perimeter game and went into halftime with a 48-38 lead. Northridge managed to stay relatively close via 3-pointers from guard Rob Haynes in transition and numerous offensive rebounds.
Unfortunately for the Matadors, the beginning of the second half was a case of d‚j… vu. Cal Poly opened the half with another offensive rush, beginning with a 10-0 run to start the final 20 minutes. Ultimately, the Matadors were unable to contain Cal Poly’s shooters and their 20 turnovers.
They would never get within double digits for the rest of the game.
Despite the offensive surge, the Matadors outrebounded Cal Poly 45-31, including 18 offensive boards. The Mustangs’ woes from the free-throw line also continued. Cal Poly shot 10 for 20, shooting three percent better from the floor.
“Those are concerns for us,” Stockalper said, adding, “we know we have to get better in that area, if we don’t, it will be our downfall.”
Despite the flaws, Cal Poly played with a swagger that was all but non-existent earlier in the season.
“I really think the sky is the limit for this team,” sophomore center Titus Shelton said. “We’re trying to stay level-headed and work like we deserve it.”
The Mustangs will play their last home game of the season against Pacific (11-17) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Mott Gym on Senior Day.