Credit: Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

Despite having a 14 point lead in the first half, Cal Poly Men’s Basketball fell short against Santa Clara 76-69 on Wednesday, Dec. 9 inside Mott Athletics Center.

The Mustangs (1-2) came out firing in the first half, growing a large lead thanks to efficient offense and three-point shooting, but Santa Clara (5-0) remained undefeated as Cal Poly’s hot shooting disappeared in the second period.

Two early threes from freshman guard Kobe Sanders gave the Mustangs a quick 8-2 lead. A jump shot from sophomore forward Alimamy Koroma put Cal Poly up 10-4 with 15:30 left in the first half.

Later in the half, Sanders and senior wing Mark Crowe hit back-to-back threes to give Cal Poly a 27-17 lead with 8:39 left. Those were the fourth and fifth threes of the game for the Mustangs, already surpassing their total of three triples in their last game. 

With 2:52 left in the half, freshman guard Brantly Stevenson made a no-look pass around a Broncos defender to set up Koroma for an uncontested dunk.. A free throw from Sanders soon after capped an 11-2 run, putting the Mustangs up 40-26.

Santa Clara put together a late 7-0 run, but freshman guard Camren Pierce beat the first half buzzer with a layup to give the Mustangs a 43-33 lead heading into halftime. 

The Mustangs shot 50% from the field and 45.5% from three in the first half, and recorded only three turnovers. Sanders shot a perfect 5-5 from the field including 3 triples to account for 14 points, while Koroma added 12 points of his own on 4-7 shooting in the half.

Santa Clara opened the second half on a 9-0 run, cutting Cal Poly’s lead to one and forcing head coach John Smith to use two timeouts in the first five minutes. The Mustangs came out cold in the second half, missing their first nine shots from the field.

Freshman forward Dyson Koehler snapped the cold streak with a three to extend their lead to four points. However, back-to-back layups from Santa Clara’s Miguel Tomley and Josip Vrankic tied the game at 46 with 14:02 left in the game.

Cal Poly went on a quick 6-0 run to make the score 52-46, but Santa Clara responded with their own 13-2 run with 8:07 left, taking the lead for the rest of the game. Senior guard Keith Smith hit a jumper with 4:11 left to cut Cal Poly’s deficit to four points, but the Broncos scored on their next three possessions to put the game out of reach for the Mustangs.

Vrancic, Tomley and forward Keshawn Justice combined for 32 points in the second half for Santa Clara, out-scoring the Mustangs on their own. Koroma and Pierce each recorded career highs with 16 and 15 points respectively, while Sanders tied his career high with 16 points as well.

Cal Poly will continue their home stand on Sunday, Dec. 13 as they take on San Jose State inside Mott Athletics Center.

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