After ugly first half, the Mustangs turn it up offensively to remain undefeated in Big West Conference home games
Since the beginning of January, predicting success for the Cal Poly men’s basketball team has become very predictable.
The Mustangs have won all five of their home games and lost all five of their road games.
The opponent has hardly mattered. Cal Poly has beaten teams occupying the top four spots in the Big West Conference standings, including accounting for Long Beach State’s lone conference loss.
Two of Cal Poly’s defeats have come against bottom half teams, including UC Santa Barbara, which would be left out of the conference tournament if it started today.
After embarking on a second-half comeback to storm past second-place Pacific 67-62 at Mott Gym on Thursday night, the correlation was undeniable.
“It just seems like when we’re at home, we have the momentum,” junior guard Kyle Odister said. “When you go back home for Christmas or anything, you just feel at home. You feel like it’s your place. You’ve got to protect your house.”
The Mustangs (10-11, 6-5 Big West) did it in improbable fashion this time, trailing the Tigers
(13-9, 7-3 Big West) by eight with 13:36 left in the game before coming back to take a double-
digit lead into the final minute.
Chris Eversley had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Odister scored 14 points, including a 6-for-6 effort at the free-throw line in 20 minutes off the bench, in Cal Poly’s 10th straight conference victory in Mott Gym. Only Long Beach State’s 22-game Big West home winning streak is longer.
Eversley and Odister also hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Mustangs their first second-half lead and swing the momentum for good with 6:37 left.
This came after two road losses where poor free-throw shooting helped doom Cal Poly down the stretch.
The Mustangs sank enough free throws Thursday to keep Pacific from seriously threatening in the end.
Cal Poly players said they did not put any extra emphasis on clutch free-throw shooting in practice.
The Mustangs will certainly have to figure out how to compile wins on the road heading into the Big West Conference Tournament. Sure, Cal Poly has a road victory over UCLA, but other than that, the Mustangs are 1-10 away from home.
With a month left in the regular season, the Mustangs don’t seem too concerned about that yet either.
“We’re not getting blown out on the road,” Eversley said. “The only big loss we’ve had on the road is at Pacific, so, realistically, when you go to a neutral site, just like we’re not at home, the other team’s not going to be at home either.”
The Tigers cruised to a 77-55 victory over the Mustangs in Stockton on Jan. 12. It was Cal Poly’s only double-digit loss in conference play and third overall on the season.
On Thursday, Pacific was led by Travis Fulton’s 19 points. He was the only Tigers player in double digits, but Tony Gill scored nine, and Ross Rivera, the son of former Cal Poly, Cuesta College and Arroyo Grande High standout Chico Rivera, scored eight.
Pacific held a 21-20 lead at the half after both teams shot poorly from the field. The Mustangs were 7 for 27 from the floor, and the Tigers shot 8 for 27.
Looking for shots against Pacific’s defense was a challenge. The Tigers had success denying Cal Poly’s potent shooters, Dylan Royer and Reese Morgan, on the wing.
Royer and Morgan combined to go 1 for 4 from 3-point range in the first half and the team was 1 for 6.
But after running off constant screens in the second half, the Pacific defense appeared to wear down.
Royer and Jamal Johnson each had second-half 3-pointers. Eversley hit his, and Odister made two. The team was a combined 5 for 7 from 3-point range in the second half.
“It was just a matter of flowing,” Cal Poly head coach Callero said. “You get one and the next one and the ball rolls in. A little mojo rolls your way, and it’s called momentum.”
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