After one game and an exhibition, a big question loomed over the Cal Poly men’s basketball team.
How much longer could the Mustangs keep wining with just five players in the scoring column?
The answer came unexpectedly Thursday in a 50-47 loss to Division II Cal State Monterey Bay, which snatched its first lead of the game with 4:15 to play and held on while Cal Poly went scoreless in the final six minutes.
David Hanson had 18 points and eight rebounds, Will Donahue added 17 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double, and Shawn Lewis had eight points and seven rebounds.
But in the Mustangs’ first loss to a lower-division program since moving to Division I for the 1994-95 school year, the rest of the team combined to score just four points.
“It’s kind of scary clear, I think, the reality that offensively, we have to get so much more contribution from other parts,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said.
“Lewis, Hanson and Donahue feel a compelling urgency to contribute, and what we saw is them having to force the issue a little bit.”
Hanson and Lewis, who each had more than 20 points in the Mustangs’ season-opening 76-60 win at Seattle on Sunday, also combined for 10 turnovers against Cal State Monterey Bay.
The Otters were led by Ian Hosford with 15 points and 10 rebounds and also got seven points from former Atascadero High standout Darroll Phillips.
Phillips, who graduated from Atascadero High in 2004 and spent two seasons at Monterey Peninsula College and another at Chico State before leaving school to support his family, took the past two years off from school and basketball.
He returned just in time to help Cal State Monterey Bay pick up a dream win over a Division I opponent in his home county.
“It’s huge,” Phillips said. “First game of the season, to beat a D-I team, is a really good way to kick it off, especially coming home, seeing my high school coach here. My mom was able to come.”
His dream was a nightmare for Cal Poly.
The Mustangs were hounded by Cal State Monterey Bay’s switching and helping man defense and mostly settled for the shots the Otters were giving them.
It added up to a shooting percentage of just 29.6 from the field and just 15 percent from 3-point range.
“We didn’t execute offensively what we wanted to do, and we let them dictate,” Hanson said. “They pushed us where they wanted to, and we never got into a rhythm offensively.
“The shots we took were poor.”
Cal Poly was also kicking itself for going 12 of 23 from the free-throw line. Donahue was 3 for 9.
Yet, if not for Donahue grabbing offensive rebounds, Cal State Monterey Bay might have taken its first lead much earlier in the game.
With 7:53 left in the first half and the Mustangs leading 14-10, Donahue already had eight points on 4-of-6 shooting. Three of those baskets came directly following offensive rebounds.
The Cal Poly offense came around a little toward the end of the first half, and the Mustangs went into the break with a 30-22 lead and only four turnovers. The Otters had not forced one steal.
But three steals by Cal State Monterey Bay in the first 4:22 of the second half helped keep Cal Poly from pulling away, and the Otters closed on a 13-5 run in the final 10-plus minutes.
“We started getting tighter,” Callero said. “As the game gets closer and you sense an upset, you sense that you’re losing it, you get a little more fatigued because you’re playing tighter.
“As a Division II coach for eight years, I can tell you when you start smelling that blood, the tide turns a little bit and the Division I team goes, ‘I don’t want to lose that game’ and they play not to lose.”