The Cal Poly men’s basketball team returned to Mott Athletic Center on Saturday night for its first major home contest of the 2017 season, showcasing a squad hopeful for success coming off a disappointing year.
And the Mustangs didn’t disappoint their home fans, posting a season high in points in a 91-81 victory over Pepperdine (2-6) on the strength of Allan Hancock transfer Marcellus Garrick’s career-high 20. He overcame a 1-for-8 shooting performance in the first half, finishing 7 of 15 from the field in his first career start.
Garrick, who came into Sunday’s game averaging 8.7 points a game, missed his first seven shots from the floor.
“I don’t care how old you are, when you get your first start, it’s a little deer in the headlights,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said. “It was funny, we thought he might be a little hesitant as a starter. The first 5, 10 minutes, I don’t think he took rhythm shots, and he wasn’t attacking the hoop. And we said, ‘We just got to let him play through it.’”
Callero’s patience was rewarded in the second half, when Garrick scored 18 of his 20 points and put the game away late with back-to-back 3-pointers.
Donovan Fields — one of three returning starters from last year’s team that finished 11-20 (6-10, seventh in the Big West Conference) — recorded 17 points and 11 assists and stretched his NCAA-leading made-free-throw mark to 25-of-25.
Sophomore Hank Hollingsworth also had a double-double, with 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. Five Cal Poly players had double-digit scoring nights.
The Mustangs evened their record at 4-4 coming off an appearance in the Great Alaska Shootout, where they lost two of three.
Juniors Step Up
It was an off night for senior guard Victor Joseph, the team’s second leading scorer who was rebounding from food poisoning. But the Mustangs were bolstered by the outside shooting of juniors Jakub Niziol, Luke Meikle, Trevor John and Garrick, who were a combined 9-for-19 from behind the arc. Outside shooting is something that head coach Joe Callero said he is pushing for this year.
“We’ve got a lot of shooters, guys who can hit threes,” Fields said. “My job is to find them, and I found them tonight. They did their job to hit shots.”
The Mustangs were also missing forward Josh Martin, who is expected to return next Saturday against Fresno State, and Paulo Cruz, out with a foot injury.
Callero scheduled the Mustangs to play nine teams this season that qualified for the NCAA tournament and NIT last year. This season saw the Mustangs previously faced Stanford and Cal, contests both decided by four points or less, and they will play Fresno State next week.
“I’m not sure we beat Pepperdine tonight without that much good competition early in the season,” Callero said.
Cal Poly will be well rested for Fresno State on Saturday at home before traveling to face Bethune-Cookman on Tuesday.