Sophomore wing David Nwaba scored a career-high 21 points to help the Cal Poly men’s basketball team to a 64-53 victory over Santa Clara on Saturday night.
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The Cal Poly men’s basketball team defeated Santa Clara on Saturday night 64-53 to move its home record to 14-1 in its last 15 games at Mott Athletics Center.
The Mustangs were fueled by sophomore wing David Nwaba, who scored a career-high 20 points against the Broncos. Nwaba’s aggression was part of the game plan, he said.
“We knew we were a much larger team, so we had to come out a little more aggressive and take advantage of them in the post,” Nwaba said. “And I think we did that.”
The Mustangs’ physical advantage was indicated in its 42-31 rebounding advantage.
Senior Chris Eversley led the the team in rebounds, who tied his career-high with 15 boards. Eversley, who averages 12.2 points per game this season, scored just nine points on Saturday, but the former all-conference player found a way to contribute.
“If I’m not scoring I have to be able to so something else,” Eversley said. “I got to step up for the team.”
Cal Poly was 26th in the nation in points allowed coming into Saturday’s game and allowed just 53 points against Santa Clara, eight points below its season average. However, the team’s defense didn’t just prevent the opposition from scoring, Nwaba said.
“We turned it up on the defensive end,” he said. “And good defense leads to good offense, so we did a good job on the defensive end and that’s what set it off.”
The game was tightly contested until a few minutes to go in the first half when Cal Poly began a 21-7 run. Eventually the Mustangs led 45-31 with 10 minutes left in the game. However Santa Clara fought back, bringing the score to 47-41, before Cal Poly sealed the victory.
“I think that they’re a good team,” head coach Joe Callero said. “Very rarely are you going to make it a 29-9 run. So we teach our guys it’s a game of runs.”
The victory marks the 14th win in the last 15 played at home for the Mustangs. Callero says he expected a great atmosphere when he arrived four years ago and it hasn’t let him down.
“It’s a different environment than almost any place we go,” he said. “It’s a smaller facility with just 3,000 seats and we get a nice packed-in crowd there. It’s very intense.”
The Mustangs now will face Cal State Dominguez Hills before starting a four-game road trip to conclude the non-conference season. Cal Poly will face Pittsburgh and Stanford, two basketball programs from major conferences, which will give the team national coverage.
Nationally-televised games have been relatively rare in Cal Poly’s basketball history, but Callero believes the team can handle it.
“I think it bothered our team three years ago,” he said. “I think our guys like it, want it, they expect it, and are prepared for it. It’s all just training, it’s training how to get tougher.”
The Mustangs have had one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the program’s history, Callero said.
Cal Poly is 3-5 on the season, but the losses have helped prepare the team for Big West conference play, Eversley said.
“I think it’s prepared us tremendously,” he said. “We’re not going to see the types of athleticism, speed and quickness when we get to conference play.”
The Big West is hyped to be arguably as good as it’s ever been with the likes of Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara fielding talented squads. However, the Mustangs like their chances this season, Eversley said.
“We feel solid,” he said. “Games like tonight make a huge difference on team chemistry and team strategy.”