The Cal Poly men’s basketball team failed to take sole possession of second place in the Big West Conference on Thursday night, falling into third with an 80-57 loss to UC Santa Barbara at The Thunderdome in Goleta.
The Mustangs (8-11, 5-3), who opened the year by getting off to their best Big West start ever, trailed 38-18 at halftime and never recovered.
Both teams are chasing first-place Pacific (14-6, 7-1).
Cal Poly, despite shooting just 35.4 percent from the floor to UC Santa Barbara’s 51.9 percent, was outrebounded 29-24, and didn’t block any shots.
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Lorenzo Keeler had a team-best 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting from his guard spot for the Mustangs, including a 3-of-6 performance from 3-point range.
Besides him, however, Cal Poly was 3 of 17 from long range and had no one else in double-figure scoring.
David Hanson chipped in nine off the bench for the Mustangs, with Kyle Odister and Justin Brown chipping in seven each.
James Nunnally lifted UC Santa Barbara (11-7, 6-2) with 20 points and a game-high five assists. All but three of his points came before the break.
Orlando Johnson and Jaime Serna added 18 and 12 points apiece, respectively, for the Gauchos, whose largest lead was 35 points at 57-24 after a 10-0 run early in the second half. Johnson pulled down a game-best nine rebounds.
Cal Poly, which was held scoreless for six-and-a-half minutes at one point in the opening half, had eight assists and committed 21 turnovers, compared to the Gauchos’ 19 assists and 14 turnovers.
The Mustangs will host Cal State Bakersfield (3-16) for a nonconference game at Mott Gym at 7 p.m. Saturday. Cal Poly lost its first matchup with the Roadrunners this season, 70-63, on New Year’s Eve in Bakersfield.
Cal Poly will return to Big West Conference action Thursday at UC Davis before playing at Pacific on Feb. 6.