The Cal Poly men’s basketball team failed to capitalize on an opportunity to reach .500 in conference play on Saturday night, falling to Pacific 68-47.
Trailing 31-29 at halftime, the Mustangs were outscored 37-18 in the second half. The loss, which was their 10th by double digits this season, guaranteed that Cal Poly can’t earn a top-four seed in the Big West Conference Tournament, and thus won’t have a first-round bye.
“They came out aggressive and just wanted it more than us,” said sophomore guard Lorenzo Keeler, who added the Mustangs’ 69-64 win at Pacific on ESPN2 on Jan. 28 only increased the Tigers’ motivation. “Especially with the loss to us earlier on national TV, they wanted to be sure to even the score. The bottom line is that we just couldn’t find the bottom of the net tonight.”
Cal Poly shot only 37 percent in the second half, while Pacific made 50 percent of its shots, making it seem as if Cal Poly was either rushing its shots or taking way too long to set them up.
Overall, the Mustangs shot 40 percent from the floor, while Pacific shot 49 percent and took nine more shots than the Mustangs.
A lack of attention to the shot clock also cost Cal Poly in the start of the second half, with two violations within the first five minutes, and a couple of forced air balls as well.
And while Cal Poly held a 33-32 rebound advantage, the Mustangs (11-16, 6-8 Big West) had six more turnovers and went only 4 for 13 for free throws. Pacific (20-9, 10-5) made all four of its free-throw attempts.
“We did good in rebounding opportunities, but as far as our shots, we just weren’t making them,” said sophomore forward Charles Anderson, who went 0 for 1 from the floor and had two rebounds.
Frustrations became evident in the second half, with players from both teams beginning to jaw back and forth at one another, to the point that Pacific junior forward Anthony Brown had to be restrained by teammates for the situation to diffuse.
Pacific junior guard Steffan Johnson scored a game-high 22 points, with 10 of them coming in the second half.
Sophomore center Casey Neimeyer was 6 of 7 from the floor to finish with 13 points for Pacific, while Brown added 10 points and six rebounds.
Cal Poly got off to a strong start, with junior guard Trae Clark making his first attempt at a 3-pointer 19 seconds into the game.
The first half remained largely competitive, with Cal Poly’s largest lead being six with about five minutes elapsed.
The game remained tied throughout much of the half, while the lead fluctuated between two-to- five-point advantages for either team.
A dunk by senior forward Dreshawn Vance with 8:44 left in the opening half gave the Mustangs an 18-14 lead and served to excite and reinvigorate the crowd. He chipped in 12 points and four rebounds, while junior center Titus Shelton had 10 points and three rebounds. Clark, who played all 40 minutes along with Keeler, finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
The game was Cal Poly’s last at home this season, and was the Mustangs’ Senior Night. Their four seniors, guard Dawin Whiten, Vance, forward Matt Hanson and center Zach Thurow were honored prior to the game.
Cal Poly will tip off at Long Beach State at 7 p.m. Thursday before visiting Cal State Northridge at 5 p.m. Saturday. The conference tournament is held March 12-15 in Anaheim.