With possession of the ball on the last play of the game, trailing undefeated Hawaii (5-0) by one point, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team was searching for some kind of late-game heroics to pull off the win.

Enter Chris O’Brien.

After Cal Poly missed two shots, O’Brien grabbed a rebound and tipped in a basket as time expired to push the Mustangs (3-3) past Hawaii 54-53 Wednesday night in Mott Gym.

“I didn’t even realize what had happened ‘till the ball went in the hoop,” O’Brien said. “I kind of thought, ‘Who scored that?’ I was right next to Dave and next thing I know I see a swarm of about 20 teammates charge me. It was a great way to end the game.”

With seconds remaining, center Will Donahue kept Cal Poly alive. He grabbed his only rebound of the half off guard Shawn Lewis’ missed 3-pointer. Donahue then threw up a quick shot, which ricocheted off the backboard and found its way to O’Brien. His tip as time expired gave the Warriors their first loss of the season.

The basket highlighted O’Brien’s surging success in his last three games. He has contributed crucial points in Cal Poly’s victories over Hawaii and Loyola Marmount. O’Brien, who averaged 1.3 points in 27 minutes in the first three games of the season, is averaging 11 points in 30 minutes in the last three games.

O’Brien said as the season continues on, his confidence will continue to build but he will not force his progress.

“I’ve had to be patient,” O’Brien said. “Just sitting out a year – it’s never easy to just come back in and just fit right in with the system, rhythm or timing. The coaches have done a great job helping me stay confident.”

In the first seven minutes of the half, Cal Poly held its largest lead of the game at 16-6, outshooting Hawaii 13-6 and forcing nine turnovers with four steals.

Cal Poly would continue its defensive pressure, with Hawaii finishing the half with 17 turnovers. But Cal Poly’s  field goal percentage (27) in the first half would let Hawaii take the lead, 28-26, despite taking 13 more shots than the Warriors. Fifteen of Cal Poly’s 29 field goal attempts in the first half were 3-pointers.

Lewis said the team’s strategy did not change at halftime, as Cal Poly continued to fire 3-point shots in the second half.

“We all had good looks and we just encouraged each other at halftime to keep shooting and eventually they’d go down,” Lewis said.

The 3-point shots did eventually start going down for Cal Poly, in the final minutes of the game. Cal Poly made three of its last four 3-point shots, after missing 17 consecutive 3-pointers.

Lewis finished with a game-high 15 points and three steals, while David Hanson added 14 points.

Cal Poly will be spending the next four weeks on the road, facing Loyola Marymount, UCLA, San Diego State, California, and Pepperdine.

Head coach Joe Callero said the the road trip may be one of the hardest Cal Poly has ever seen but he is excited for the opportunity to play against those good teams.

“Quite arguably maybe the hardest five-game road trip in the history of Cal Poly basketball,” Callero said. “And that’s not something were complaining about. That’s something were pretty proud about. We’re proud about that opportunity to play five road games against national ranked teams.”

Callero said he is confident in his team’s ability to play on the road, especially after starting this season 3-3 better than last year’s 1-5 start.

“Now what we’ve got to be able to do is take that momentum from the win on the road and play with confidence,” Callero said.

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