Coming off a blowout victory over San Jose State in the season opener, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team had an infallible air about it.
The Mustangs gave some of that goodwill back Wednesday, falling 60-58 to Cal State Bakersfield at Mott Gym, and it’s clear they’re not yet the polished product they aim to be.
“We didn’t expect to beat San Jose State by as much as we did,” senior center Will Taylor said about the 79-52 victory over the Spartans. “We just went out and executed what our coach wanted us to do, and we tried to do that tonight. It was just a different team with different looks.”
Taylor scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed four offensive rebounds. Senior guard Amaurys Fermin poured in 14 points as the two former transfers from Hagerstown Community College again stood out for the Mustangs (1-1).
But Fermin had a last-second layup blocked by the Roadrunners’ Mo Hughley, and Cal Poly is struggling with the task of setting up leading returning scorer David Hanson in spots where he can be effective.
Coming off a season where he averaged more than 15 points, Hanson made only one basket for the second straight game — this time being held to just 1 of 2 from the field — and Tyrone White nailed the game-winning 3-pointer with 10.3 seconds left for Cal State Bakersfield (1-1).
This early in the season, there is some cause for concern, but nothing about the Mustangs’ court demeanor or postgame comments showed any signs of panic.
Fermin even took some body contact on the block by Hughley but didn’t seem bothered by the non-call, calling Hughley’s help-side rotation good defense.
“I thought I got a little hit, but at the end of the game, you’re not going to get that call,” said Fermin, who had three assists.
Off the bench, Chris Eversley had eight points, Will Donahue had seven points and six rebounds and former Morro Bay High standout Dylan Royer nailed two 3-pointers.
Jamal Johnson was scoreless in 20 minutes but dished out seven assists, including a pass on the break to Taylor, whose two-handed dunk gave Cal Poly a 54-48 lead with 6:35 left in the game.
Issiah Grayson and Stephon Carter led Cal State Bakersfield with 12 points apiece, but White did the damage late, scoring eight of his nine points in the final 4:31.
The Roadrunners scored the last seven points of the game. After a Carter layup, White’s first 3-pointer cut the Mustangs lead to 58-57 with 2:56 left.
The shot came after Hanson’s fifth turnover of the game as the Mustangs continued trying to get the senior involved.
“We really do have some trouble getting him set up right now,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said. “People are playing him much more aggressively.
“We’ve got to be able to get David cleaner looks. He’s playing in a crowd.”
Early on, it looked as if the Mustangs were going to run away with another one.
Using a stifling defense, Cal Poly built an 8-2 lead in the first three minutes. The Roadrunners turned the ball over on an offensive foul, nearly committed a shot-clock violation and the Mustangs had two steals on the first three Cal State Bakersfield possessions. But the Roadrunners went on an 18-2 run that spanned six minutes as Cal Poly’s offense stagnated. Cal State Bakersfield shot 60 percent in the first half, and the Mustangs were happy to end the half on their own 7-0 run to make it 34-30 at the break.
Though the Mustangs did finish shooting 51 percent from the field, it seemed as if there was some offense missing.
Maliik Love was scoreless in 17 minutes starting for the second straight game in place of freshman shooting guard Reese Morgan, who is scheduled to have surgery on a torn meniscus today and said he expects to return sometime in the next month.
Callero said there were some negatives, but the positive performances of players like Taylor, Fermin and Royer are outweighing them at this point. Players agreed.
“We’re building,” Fermin said. “We’re learning. This is the type of game we’re going to build on and learn from our mistakes. Because this is a long season.”