Shot after shot from 3-point range, they just wouldn’t fall. And miss after miss, there was a word someone could have used to describe the performance.
Historical. In a sense.
Almost exactly one year ago, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team hit 11 straight 3-pointers to begin a blowout victory over visiting Cal State Northridge. On Saturday, the Mustangs missed their first nine long-range shots against the Matadors at Mott Gym.
Add a chapter to the Twilight Zone section of Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero’s resume, but one result wasn’t reversed. Cal Poly won 75-64 to win its ninth straight Big West Conference home game and move all alone into third place in the standings.
Last season, the Mustangs (9-9, 5-3 Big West) tied an NCAA record with their string of 3s. This year, history did not repeat.
“Let’s not forget that teams remember that as well,” Callero said, “and they smothered the pressure on the perimeter to make sure we didn’t go smoking hot 11 for 11. So, they did a great job of that. It opened up our drives and opened up our post play.
Compensating for the cold night for sharp-shooting guards Dylan Royer and Reese Morgan, who each went 0 for 5 from the field and combined for zero points, junior forward Chris Eversley scored a career-high 30 points, and freshman center Brian Bennett tied a career high he set with 17 points in Thursday’s win over Hawaii.
Eversley added 14 rebounds, one short of his career high, and hit Cal Poly’s first 3-pointer to jumpstart the Mustangs’ offense in the second half.
Eversley capped the scoring with a put-back dunk in the final seconds, one of his seven offensive rebounds on a night it seemed where every time he tapped at the ball it went in the hoop.
“I was just having fun,” Eversley said. “That’s what it kind of goes back to. When you’re having fun, you don’t get tired … and you make it more of an escape from life. You just realize it’s just a game, but you love it so much, you just take it and run with it.”
Cal State Northridge (10-11, 1-8 Big West) took a 37-32 halftime lead on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Landon Drew.
The Matadors continued to hold the lead until Eversley hit his 3-pointer and junior guard Kyle Odister came off the bench to hit Cal Poly’s second 3 just 16 seconds later. Odister’s 3-pointer gave the Mustangs a 53-49 advantage with 12:06 remaining, and Cal Poly never trailed again.
Odister hit a second 3-pointer and finished 2 for 5 from the field with six points on a night where Cal State Northridge was intent on denying the Mustangs’ outside shooters.
“It was a big swing of the momentum,” Odister said of the back-to-back 3s. “The whole team was in it. We picked it up on defense, and I think that’s what brought us back to win.”
Cal State Northridge had four scorers in double figures, led by forward Trevone Williams, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. Stephen Maxwell and Josh Greene each scored 14, and Drew finished with 10. Former Paso Robles High standout Lonnie Watson was 0 for 1 from the floor with one rebound in 13 minutes for the Matadors.
Cal State Northridge lost leading scorer Stephan Hicks to a knee injury, which Callero said was described as a hyperextension, less than four minutes into the second half.
Averaging 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds coming into the game, the 6-foot-6 guard finished with six points and eight rebounds.
His loss factored into the result, and so did the Matadors’ 23 personal fouls.
With the added ball pressure and smothering man-to-man defense came more touch fouls, and Cal Poly capitalized, hitting 24 of 29 free throws.
The Mustangs were in the bonus with more than eight minutes left in the first half, and their 17 free-throw attempts before the break helped them keep the score close when outside shots weren’t falling.
It seemed because of the defensive pressure, Morgan — who had 42 points combined in his past two games — and Royer never found their rhythm.
“We had a couple looks,” Callero said, “but they were rushed looks. That’s OK if you can counter with getting to the free-throw line and getting it inside.”