There’s no way it should have happened again.
Not with a legendary coach breaking down Cal Poly’s matchup zone and not with Pacific shooting 3s as if they were free throws.
That’s what Mustangs head men’s basketball coach Joe Callero figured anyway.
But with Tigers coach Bob Thomason closing in on Jerry Tarkanian’s Big West Conference all-time coaching victories record, Cal Poly shut down Pacific again, winning 58-39 on Saturday night at Mott Gym and holding the Tigers under 40 points for the second straight game.
“I told our guys before the game we had to play our best game of the year to win tonight,” Callero said. “I had that much respect for coach Thomason, for Pacific. I just thought we had to play an excellent game, and I thought we played an excellent game.”
David Hanson scored a game-high 21 points, Shawn Lewis had his first double-double of the season with 15 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, and the Mustangs (11-11, 6-4 Big West) — who are now tied for second place in the conference with Cal State Northridge — harassed Pacific into shooting 3 for 13 from 3-point range.
After taking a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes, the Tigers (13-10, 5-5 Big West) made just 13 shots from the field altogether. “We’re a good defensive team,” Lewis said. “Last time at their place we played that zone, and they had a hard time scoring points. It’s not a fluke. Last time, they thought it was a fluke. ‘They had a bad shooting night.’ I guess they had another bad shooting night.”
The Mustangs took a 43-39 win in Stockton on Jan. 6. It was the lowest score by a Cal Poly opponent since 1985, and it happened to be the first game this season Callero unveiled his matchup zone defense.
After a 2-for-23 performance from 3-point range in that first game, Pacific had upped its 3-point percentage to a Big West-leading 42.5 percent in conference play. The Tigers enjoyed a 15-of-21 game against UC Davis and were coming off a 74-68 win over UC Santa Barbara where they shot 12 of 19 on 3s.
Cal Poly, which at one point led the nation in 3-point percentage defense and still ranks in the top three, made it a priority to end Pacific’s hot streak.
“We just didn’t give them any open looks, especially from 3-point land,” Hanson said. “We limited their inside-out action, and I think that limited them from the 3-point line.”
Callero was not expecting the game to play out so similarly for his defense.
With that win over the Gauchos, Thomason moved to 400 for his career. He now trails Tarkanian, who racked up his total during stints at Long Beach State and UNLV, by five victories for the conference’s all-time mark.
Thomason predicted before the game that the outcome would boil down to rebounding, and Cal Poly dominated that statistic. The Mustangs outrebounded the Tigers 39-26, and Cal Poly got 16 second-chance points.
Spearheading the effort was Lewis, whose previous career high was 11 rebounds.
“I’d say he could lead the Big West in offensive rebounding with all of his other responsibilities as well,” Hanson said. “If he just puts is mind to it, he can do it. He had 15 rebounds tonight, and he was just going after it. If he continues to do that, it’s just going to be huge for us.”
Lewis was coming off a four-game streak where he had scored at least 20 points in every game. He had a slow start offensively Saturday, scoring just two points in the first half, but with Hanson putting up nine points while the Mustangs took a 19-17 lead at the break, Lewis wasn’t worried.
“They have to guard one of us,” Lewis said. “If they don’t guard me, they have to guard Dave. If they don’t guard Dave, they have to guard me. A lot of teams have a hard time doing that. Either me or Dave ends up scoring a lot of points.
“They double-teamed me a lot tonight, face guarded me, and we found Dave. They just left Dave wide open. They forgot he could shoot.”
Still, though Lewis’ 20-point scoring streak ended, Callero was angling for one of the conference weekly honors for his only senior.
“If he’s not conference player of the week,” Callero said, “he’s certainly my conference player of the week because of his poise, his rebounding, and most important, two wins. We had two wins this weekend that have firmly positioned us into second place right now.”