Gauchos spoil Mustangs’ senior day

UC Santa Barbara opens big lead early, cruises to 71-55 win as Cal Poly ends regular season 10-19

jscroggin@thetribunenews.comMarch 9, 2014 

Well, there are five days to make sure that doesn’t happen all over again.

The Cal Poly men’s basketball team will face UC Santa Barbara at noon Thursday in the opening round of next week’s Big West Conference Tournament at Honda Center in Anaheim.

If Saturday’s matchup between the archrivals was any indication, it will be a short stay for the Mustangs.

The Gauchos (21-8, 12-4 Big West), seeded second in the conference tournament, played nearly to perfection at Mott Athletics Center, whipping the Mustangs (10-19, 6-10 Big West) 71-55 and dropping them to seventh in the Big West standings.

The outcome guaranteed a rematch, and UC Santa Barbara has to be feeling good about that.

The Gauchos shot the lights out. Led by Kyle Boswell, who was 4 of 6 from long range, UC Santa Barbara shot 9 for 16 on 3-pointers. Big man Alan Williams scored 23 points and grabbed 15 points on 9 of 14 from the field.

The Gauchos were 55.6 percent from the field and used an 18-1 late first-half scoring run to bury Cal Poly in front of 3,032, the second sellout crowd of the season and the only one aside from an ESPNU matchup against UC Irvine.

But not even a frothing senior-night crowd could liven up the affair. UC Santa Barbara’s zone defense smothered Cal Poly.

The Gauchos defense “is pretty solid because they play it packed in pretty well,” Cal Poly senior forward Chris Eversley said. “It’s just us getting in there. We found our spots. We just need to knock down our shots.”

It’s hard to knock them down when your shots are thrown back in your face.

Williams accounted for five of UC Santa Barbara’s nine blocks, and just the threat of a block altered many shots.

The Mustangs were just 9 of 40 shooting from inside the 3-point line, good for 22.5 percent.

Nobody in a Cal Poly jersey had more than three baskets. Eversley scored a team-high 14 on 3-of-11 shooting with two 3-pointers and a 6-for-6 effort at the free-throw line.

The next-highest scorer for the Mustangs was freshman guard Ridge Shipley, who nailed a last-second 3-pointer to total eight. Joel Awich had seven points and five rebounds.

It was a far cry from the previous matchup, a 72-64 Cal Poly win in Santa Barbara. The Mustangs were 11 for 18 from 3-point range in that game, using that to help hold off the Gauchos to the end.

In the Big West Tournament, Cal Poly will have to “just emulate the things we did in the first win,” Eversley said, “be able to hit shots, finds the hot guys, follow the gameplan. We’ll be fine.”

The Mustangs did not shoot much worse from 3-point range Saturday. Cal Poly was 8 for 17 on 3-pointers.

The game’s first three shots came from 3-point range, and each one swished.

UC Santa Barbara sandwiched two long-range shots around a Kyle Odister 3 for a quick 6-0 lead.

Odister, a senior guard playing in his final game, would hit another 3 moments later, but he was one of just two Cal Poly players to sink more than a single field goal before the break as Cal Poly shot just 26.9 percent from the floor.

Odister’s perimeter shooting was labeled the missing ingredient as he’s battled a stress fracture in his foot for the past month, but he could not do it all by himself.

The Gauchos cruised to 15-6 lead fewer than five minute into the game.

Mustangs head coach Joe Callero got a spark from his bench as Awich converted a three-point play, and Michael Bolden and Anthony Silvestri nailed 3s to tie the score at 18 with 9:37 left in the half.

But Cal Poly lost all punch after tying the score.

Boswell hit two 3s for UC Santa Barbara, Taran Brown hit a 3-pointer and converted a wide-open dunk underneath, and the Gauchos finished the half on a 20-5 run and shooting 52.2 percent from the field overall to take a 38-23 lead at the break.

UC Santa Barbara’s gameplan revolved around Williams, who had 11 points, four rebounds and three blocks in the first half.

Maliik Love had Cal Poly’s only clean block of the first half. Several other block attempts were whistled as fouls, and the Mustangs clearly showed their frustration with the calls from the officials.

Callero plainly lobbied as the fouls mounted. Eversley, Brian Bennett, Zach Gordon and Silvestri each went into the half with two fouls apiece as the Gauchos put up 12 free throws before the break. Cal Poly was 4 for 5 from the line.

But the fouls were hardly of much consequence in the blowout second half.

UC Santa Barbara took its 18-point lead and pushed it to 21 three separate times after the break. The closest Cal Poly got was within 15 at 43-28 when Eversley hit a 3-pointer 1:40 into the second.

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