It’s hard to predict which of the Cal Poly men’s basketball team’s trio of 3-point shooters is going to be hot in a given game.
In Saturday night’s 68-53 victory over visiting UC Davis, it was senior Dylan Royer — with career highs in points and 3-pointers — taking the spotlight. It easily could have been freshman Reese Morgan or junior Kyle Odister.
What has been predictable, however, is the output of junior forward Chris Eversley, who came into the game leading the Mustangs (11-11, 7-5 Big West Conference) with 15.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Putting a damper on Cal Poly’s 11th straight Big West home victory was news that Eversley, who left late in the first half with a mysterious lower leg injury, will be out for an indefinite period.
“The sad thing about this is that Chris is a really tough, physical kid,” Mustangs head coach Joe Callero said. “I’ve never seen him injured in two or three years. So for him to be out of play means that there’s an injury. It’s not an owie. … It could be three to four days. It could be three to four weeks. It could be season-ending because I couldn’t imagine him being out unless it was more than a good healthy bruise.”
Callero said Eversley, who left Mott Gym immediately following the game for X-rays, did not suffer a knee or ankle sprain. He wore ice taped around his left shin and remained with the team for the second half.
Eversley appeared to get his leg tangled up with a UC Davis player while blocking out for an offensive rebound with 2:33 left in the first half. Eversley fell face first to the floor and limped noticeably as he got up and went back down the court.
He subbed out at the next stoppage and left the court under his own power.
While the Mustangs led 37-20 at the half, Eversley tried to warm up during the break, but quickly shook his head “no” and returned to the bench.
“He’s a tough kid,” Royer said. “He never complains. He gets bumps and bruises all the time, but no one ever knows. You ask him about it, and he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m fine.’ It’s like he’s invincible sometimes.”
The Mustangs weren’t slowed by Eversley’s absence in the second half. After leading by as many as 18 in the first half, Cal Poly maintained its lead and pushed its largest margin to 20 with 9:16 left in the game.
UC Davis got to within 11 with 1:09 left, but Chris O’Brien, Royer and Morgan teamed to make six straight free throws to help ice the game.
Royer finished with 20 points, including six 3-pointers — all of which came in the first half.
The former Morro Bay High standout and Tribune County Player of the Year hit his first two 3-point attempts in the first five minutes of the game, and his confidence soared.
“I always think it’s going to be a good night,” Royer said, “but after the first two or three went in early in the first half, I was feeling good. My legs were feeling good, I feel like I’m lined up with the rim.
“It makes you a little more aggressive. If you make your first few, you kind of think, ‘Maybe I should look to shoot a little bit more.’ ”
Royer ventured out further away from the 3-point line to create room for some of his shots, and the success broke up a recent slump.
Though Royer last hit six 3-pointers in a 70-68 upset victory at UCLA in late November, he had still been one of the team’s leading scorers until recently.
Royer hadn’t scored double digits since the Mustangs’ last game at UC Davis, a 69-67 loss where he had 19. He was averaging just 4.5 points in the five games since.
“The last five, six games,” Callero said, “people have been really aggressive defending Dylan, Reese and Kyle, but if they get a little bit of space and they feel it … really the only thing you can do is foul a guy. Because some of those shots Dylan had, a couple of them were flat-footed, but some of them were just 3 feet behind the 3-point line coming off a screen.”
Said Royer: “It’s definitely been hard to score the past few games. A lot of teams are denying me, lot of pressure. It’s been really tough to get shots. I’m OK with that as long as we play well and we get a chance to win. Tonight, shots were flowing, and it felt like me scoring gave us a good chance to win.”