Cal Poly

Cal Poly men win basketball exhibition opener

Cal Poly’s Jamal Johnson puts up a shot during the Mustangs’ 70-63 win over Cal State East Bay on Saturday night.
Cal Poly’s Jamal Johnson puts up a shot during the Mustangs’ 70-63 win over Cal State East Bay on Saturday night. jmellom@thetribunenews.com

In the Cal Poly men’s basketball team’s 70-63 exhibition win over Division II Cal State East Bay on Saturday, the experienced players looked experienced and the newcomers looked new.

If the Mustangs are going to make further improvement in their second season under head coach Joe Callero, the second part of that phrase is going to have to change.

David Hanson and Shawn Lewis had high-scoring nights for Cal Poly, but the points contributions were not evenly spread against a pesky Pioneers squad that refused to be blown out.

“We definitely want more bench contribution,” said Hanson, who called the announced 1,676 in Mott Gym the largest exhibition crowd he’s seen in three seasons with the Mustangs. “We had five guys score. We’d obviously like more. I think as the season goes on, more guys will fill roles.”

Hanson had a strong all-around night with 25 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two blocks and led Cal Poly with three 3-pointers. Junior center Will Donahue also had a double-double, grabbing 15 rebounds and scoring 12 points — including eight on free throws alone.

Lewis chipped in with 21 points and four rebounds.

“If we’re able to get David 13 to 20 touches a night, he’s going to be able to produce like that,” Callero said.

“When we looked good, the ball moved, and Shawn had touches driving and David had in-and-out plays.”

But only five players scored for Cal Poly. Drake U’u had nine off the bench, and Chris O’Brien, who was in foul trouble almost immediately in the first half sank one 3-pointer.

Five other Mustangs played, but they combined to go 0 for 9 from the field. Against a front line where the tallest players were 6-foot-3, 6-10 freshmen Ben Eisenhardt and Ryan Pembleton, both of whom redshirted last season, did not play for Cal Poly.

Callero said he will wait until Eisenhardt and Pembleton face comparable matchups to get them into games. As it was, Hanson and Donahue were more equipped to defend smaller, quicker big men.

Though still an exhibition, it was the debut in Mott Gym for many others, including true freshman point guard Jamal Johnson, who started and got the bulk of playing time running the offense. Johnson was 0 for 2 from the field and handed out two assists.

True freshman Maliik Love backed up Johnson at point guard and appears in line for plenty of playing time.

O’Brien and U’u, two Division I transfers who sat out last season, were also playing as Mustangs for the first time.

“I was really pleased with Drake U’u coming off the bench and giving us quality points,” Callero said. “That’s really my number one concern right now, bench contribution. We have to get some more out of Chris O’Brien. He looked out of rhythm all night after sitting out a year.”

As a team, Cal Poly finished with 18 turnovers, which was part of the reason the Mustangs were not able to pull away from Cal State East Bay.

After trading the lead for most of the first half, Cal Poly had a mini run at the end and led 35-29 at the break, appearing poised to continue pushing its advantage over the Pioneers.

But Cal State East Bay opened the second half with a 3-pointer and was within three points with little more than 20 seconds left in the game.

“In our minds, we were thinking let’s run away with this, let’s get a 10-, 12-point lead and run away with it,” Hanson said, “Let’s give them credit. They were hanging in there.”

Said Callero: “We had way too many unforced turnovers, and we’re not going to have success on the road against another Division I opponent if we don’t take care of the ball.”

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