In the midst of a game where the two men’s college teams could barely make more 3-pointers than the pee-wee squads that played at halftime, Cal Poly got one just in the nick of time.
With reference to time, there was just a smidge too much of it left after Shawn Lewis swished a clutch 3 with 5.2 seconds left in a televised Big West Conference showdown with Cal State Fullerton (15-12, 8-6) on Wednesday.
Titans point guard Jacques Streeter hit a running bank shot a step inside the 3-point line with 0.2 seconds left to give Cal State Fullerton a 70-68 victory in a back-and-forth affair and to momentarily keep the Mustangs from clinching a spot in next month’s conference tournament.
“It felt good. I saw it going, and I knew it was going in,” Lewis said of his previous 3-pointer, which improved Cal Poly’s percentage from beyond the arc to just 15.8 percent. “But again, I knew we had more time left on the clock, and I’m always worried about that.”
Streeter got the ball on the inbound and snuck around Lewis, who was trying to pressure and avoid committing a foul simultaneously, to launch his shot from the right wing.
After the shot caromed off the glass and in, the Titans dogpiled in front of the Cal Poly dance team on the right baseline, and Mustangs head coach Joe Callero urged the referees to review the replay.
Sure enough, the fraction of a second remained, and Streeter finished with a game-high 21 points.
“We told the guys to switch any activity, don’t foul, make them shoot over us,” Callero said. “You can’t fault the kids. You can’t fault the strategy. You can’t complain about it. It just came down to a 40-minute game, and they made the last shot at 40 minutes.”
The loss at Mott Gym kept Cal Poly from achieving their two publicized preseason goals on Wednesday: Making the Big West Tournament and finishing with a winning record at home.
The Mustangs (10-17, 6-8) will still get an invite to the tournament a year after they were left out with a likely UC Irvine loss to Pacific on Saturday, but a Cal Poly victory would have emphatically clinched a spot.
The loss dropped the Mustangs to 5-5 at home. They would need to win their final two games against UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine to wrap up with a winning home record.
“Based upon achieving our goals, this was the biggest game of the year,” Callero said, “because it would have allowed us to clinch a winning season in Mott. And to be stabbed by that shock, it’ll take 24 hours to recover.”
The teams combined to make just five of 29 shots from 3-point range, which helped to take some of the starch out of the 1,918 in attendance. Neither team led by more than six points in the second half, and the score was tied 21 times.
“In the beginning, we were forcing a lot of shots, and it just wasn’t dropping,” said Lewis, who scored a team-high 19 points. “We’re good at shooting 3s when somebody is driving and kicks it out to the open man. We didn’t do that tonight. We kind of created our own 3-pointers, and that’s why some of them didn’t fall.”
Lorenzo Keeler had 12 points, and David Hanson added 12, but the duo combined to go 0 for 9 on 3-pointers.
In the first half, both teams combined to go just 1 for 14 from the outside. Cal Poly was 1 for 9.
The one, however, was a spot-up shot from Kyle Odister from a few feet beyond the line on the right wing. It gave Cal Poly its first lead of the night about midway through the first half after the Mustangs had spent most of the game trailing.
It also gave the student section a chance to chant “Let’s go Ky-le!” in front of a regional television audience. It would be another 25 minutes of game play before they got to cheer for another Cal Poly 3.