The last time senior guard Dylan Royer faced UC Davis, he exploded for a then career-high 19 points against the Aggies on Jan 10.
Since then, the Morro Bay High School graduate hadn’t been able to find his groove from his favored spot on the court — beyond the arc — as he didn’t post more than nine points in a single game since that outburst.
That changed Saturday night.
Royer erupted for a career-high 20 points, 18 of which came off 3-pointers in the first half, to help guide the Cal Poly men’s basketball team to a commanding 68-53 win over the visiting Aggies inside the Mott Athletics Center.
“After the first two or three (3-pointers) went in early on in the first half, I thought ‘I’m feeling good.’ My legs were feeling good and I was lined up at the rim and it (made) me a little more aggressive,” Royer said. “If you miss your first couple, you still have to be aggressive as a shooter, but if you make your first few you kind of think, ‘Maybe I should shoot just a little bit more.’”
With the win, Cal Poly (11-11, 7-5 Big West) extended its home winning streak against conference opponents to 11 games dating back to last season and improved its record to 9-1 overall inside Mott this year.
But it wasn’t all good news for the Mustangs on Saturday. Junior forward Chris Eversley went down with an apparent leg injury attempting to box out a defender late in the first half. He hobbled off the court under his own power. X-rays taken after the game came back negative, but it will take another day to determine the extent of the injury, according to head coach Joe Callero.
“It’s below the knee, perhaps a bone or tendon contusion of some kind,” Callero said. “The sad thing about this is that (Eversley) is a really tough and physical kid. I’ve never seen him injured in two or three years, so for him to be out of play means that there is an injury … It could be three or four days, it could be three or four weeks (or) it could be season-ending.”
As Cal Poly’s leading scorer, averaging just under 16 points per game, Eversley would be a huge loss for the Mustangs. He’s notched a team-leading seven double-doubles this season and ranks eighth in the Big West in points scored.
With the help of Everlsey’s nine points and four rebounds before his injury, Cal Poly jumped out to a 37-20 halftime lead on the Aggies (9-13, 5-6).
Freshman forward Brian Bennett noted Eversley’s leadership despite his absence from the floor in the second half.
“We couldn’t just stop because he got hurt,” Bennett said. “We had to keep going on and on, and he was right there supporting us from the bench. He was in everyone’s ear in the timeouts giving us advice. He was great.”
UC Davis opened up an early 4-0 lead hitting its first two shots of the game, but the sharp-shooting Royer got Cal Poly on the board with a 3-pointer almost three minutes into the game to cut the early lead to 3-2.
The Aggies would later lead 7-5 when guard Ryan Sypkens, the nation’s second-best long range shooter entering the game (hitting on 49 percent of his shots from downtown), knocked down a 3-pointer with 15:40 left in the opening half.
But another Royer long ball gave the Mustangs an 8-7 advantage, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the remainder of the contest.
Royer tied his career-high by hitting six 3-pointers in the opening half alone and added two free throws in the second half to obtain his 20-point total on the night. He also knocked down six 3s in an upset win over then-No. 11 UCLA on Nov. 25.
“Some of those shots that Dylan had were flat-footed, but some of them were just three feet beyond the 3-point line off of a screen,” Callero said. “When great shooters like that see the ball going in they don’t know who you’re playing or what’s going on, but they’re just like, ‘I can make it.’”
Following Royer’s 3-pointer with 15:07 to play in the first, Cal Poly went on a 23-3 run during the course of the next 10 minutes to extend its advantage to 28-10.
With more than nine minutes to play in the game the Mustangs led by as many as 20 points and would hold on despite a late scoring outburst by the Aggies’ Corey Hawkins and Sypkens. Sypkens led UC Davis with 17 points in the game while Hawkins finished with 16.
Bennett finished with eight points and four boards before fouling out with two minutes to go. Fellow freshman Reese Morgan had 12 points and tied a career-high with eight rebounds for Cal Poly.
The Mustangs remain in fourth place in the Big West standings after the win and will look to avenge a double-overtime loss at UC Santa Barbara when the Gauchos visit San Luis Obispo on Saturday.