BERKELEY — The Cal Poly men’s basketball team’s 51-41 loss at Cal on Saturday looked a lot like its previous two guarantee games against high-profile opponents in both style and result.
The Mustangs (3-7) denied the Golden Bears (6-4) fast-break chances, collapsed in the paint defensively and came away with a third close-but-no-cigar defeat, just like earlier matchups against UCLA and No. 11 San Diego State.
This one, however, did not accompany the same kind of confidence building after Cal Poly knotted the score at 39 before being outscored 12-2 in the final three minutes.
“We scratched, clawed and twisted our way into a tight game,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said. “Now, you’re tied with that much time and not to be able to execute and be outscored down the stretch is really why it hurts.
“We have to get over the glass ceiling of being proud about playing somebody close.”
Shawn Lewis led all scorers with 16 points in his return to the Bay Area. The Oakland native had five rebounds and three assists and went 6 of 7 from the free-throw line — moving to within 36 points of becoming the 15th Mustang to reach 1,000 in his career.
Will Donahue had eight points and matched a career high with 13 rebounds for Cal Poly, and David Hanson added seven points and six rebounds but went just 1 for 10 from 3-point range.
The loss was the fourth in a row for the Mustangs, who shot just 29.4 percent overall and were held to their lowest point total since getting beat 67-40 by Arkansas-Little Rock on Nov. 14, 2008.
“They were just so darn long,” Callero said. “I mean, you had to play perfect, and every position they were two inches taller and 20-50 pounds heavier.”
Cal wasn’t much better, committing 13 turnovers while being held to a season-low in scoring.
Golden Bears head coach Mike Montgomery expected his team to have some scoring problems. He just didn’t anticipate it lasting almost the entire game.
“To their credit, that’s what they do,” Montgomery said of Cal Poly. “They make it difficult to play. I don’t know what you can do differently. Obviously if you shoot the ball better or take advantage and make your free throws, it would make it more difficult for them to do that, but that’s what they do.”
The Mustangs held No. 11 San Diego State to 51 points and under 40 percent shooting in a six-point loss to the Aztecs on Monday.
Until their final burst, the Bears were struggling offensively and staring at the possibility of a third straight loss at Haas Pavilion. They made only 4 of 12 3-point attempts and missed eight free throws before going 3 of 4 from the line over the final 49 seconds.
Jorge Gutierrez finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting to lead Cal. The win was the 599th of Montgomery’s career, sixth most among active Division I coaches.
The slow-paced game contrasted sharply to the final three minutes when the Bears put together their best run after the Mustangs tied the score at 39 following a goaltending call against Cal’s Harper Kamp.
Freshman Allen Crabbe broke the tie with a 3-pointer, his only points of the game, before Sanders-Frison followed up a Gutierrez miss with an easy layup to make it 44-39. After Shawn Lewis was called for charging, Gutierrez made his 3-pointer and Kamp followed with a pair of free throws to help the Bears seal the win.
Cal Poly led 4-3 after Donahue’s layup with 13:28 remaining in the first half but did little after that. The Mustangs missed 15 of their next 17 attempts from the floor and shot just 15.4 percent (4 of 26) overall before halftime.
The 12 points in the first half were a season-low for Cal Poly, which scored just 15 in the loss to San Diego State.
Cal was only 5-of-19 shooting in the first half and committed nine turnovers to only five for the Mustangs.