A poor free-throw percentage has plagued the Cal Poly men’s basketball team this season, but on Monday night, the Mustangs shot 92.9 percent from the line (26 of 28) en route to a 69-64 victory over Pacific.
In his fourth starting role at Cal Poly, sophomore guard Lorenzo Keeler dropped 15 points to lead the Mustangs to just their second win in 20 games at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton.
The Mustangs opened the contest on a 15-3 surge and held the Tigers to one field goal until the 12:55 mark. Senior forward Dreshawn Vance’s eight first-half points led the Mustangs on a 21-8 run to end the half.
Although the Mustangs held a hefty lead at the halftime buzzer (41-25), a 26-6 Tiger run in the second half kept things interesting.
The game was tied at 44 with 12:08 left and the Tigers regained their second brief lead of the game with 10 minutes left to play. The only other Tiger lead occurred when Pacific’s sophomore forward Joe Ford hit the game-opening jump shot 20 seconds into the contest.
Junior guard Trae Clark and junior forward Titus Shelton hit key free throws down the stretch to regain the lead for Cal Poly. Pacific kept it close for the final minutes, but four consecutive free throws in the last minute of play by junior guard Chaz Thomas sealed the victory for the Mustangs as they improved to 8-11 overall and 3-4 in the Big West Conference. Meanwhile, Pacific fell to 14-6 overall and 5-2 in the Big West.
Clark added 14 for the Mustangs and Vance and senior forward Matt Hanson scored 12 and 11 points, respectively. Hanson hit a crucial 3-pointer in the last minute of play from the top of the arc to strengthen Cal Poly’s lead.
Pacific junior guard Steffan Johnson led all scorers with 21 points while dishing out seven assists, and sophomore center Casey Neimeyer added 14 points off the bench.
The Mustangs shot 38 percent from the floor and made 37 percent from behind the arc for the game while the Tigers shot 50 percent from the floor and hit 30 percent from long range.
The Mustangs also out-rebounded the Tigers 29 to 28.
Cal Poly heads to UC Riverside on Feb. 2 for a 2 p.m. tip-off.
The Mustangs topped the Highlanders in both contests last season – 67-64 in Mott Gym and 70-54 in the Student Recreation Center.
Shelton fared well against the Highlanders last season, dropping 13 and 12 points in the respective games.