The Eversley experiment worked. Senior forward David Hanson had a signature game. And the Cal Poly men’s basketball team ended a three-game losing streak with a momentum-building victory.
It also helped the Mustangs that UC Davis shot itself out of the game from long range in the first half of a 69-56 Cal Poly victory Thursday night.
Hanson had 16 points and 11 rebounds for his first doubledouble in more than a month, sophomore forward Eversley had 13 points and seven rebounds in a new role as the sixth man and the Aggies opened the game 0 for 14 from 3-point range.
Former Morro Bay High standout Dylan Royer scored 14 points for the Mustangs (16-14, 7-8 Big West Conference) hitting all four of his second-half 3-point attempts.
UC Davis (5-24, 3-12 Big West) was 0 for 11 in the first half and finished 4 of 20 on 3s with top threats Tyler Les going 2 for 10 and Josh Ritchart 1 for 6. The student section at Mott Gym was particularly active heckling Les, the son of Aggies coach Jim Les.
“It was huge because the two primary shooters they have, Ritchart and Les, are good enough shooters to beat anybody any night,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said. “They’ve won three of their last four, including over second-place (Cal State) Fullerton. They were playing their best basketball of the year. We, on the other hand, haven’t been playing great perimeter defense.
“I thought we did as good a job as we’ve done in the year as far as extending out and getting to their shooters.”
The Mustangs led 33-18 at the half with Hanson scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds. It was a hot start that Callero partially attributed to the decision to bring Eversley off the bench earlier this week after he had established himself as a key starter.
Cal Poly’s leading scorer since early January, Eversley brought his hot shooting to the floor 4 minutes, 55 seconds into the game, giving Hanson plenty of time to aggressively attack the paint without splitting touches.
Most of the Mustangs’ points came from the inside. They only attempted one 3-pointer in the first half, a miss by Royer. There was no plan to avoid outside shots, but even with starting center Will Taylor battling foul trouble the entire night, the post game was working.
“That attributes to the success we were having in the paint,” Hanson said in reference to Cal Poly’s seven total 3-point attempts. “Whenever we were able to reverse the ball, getting it inside, good things happen. Getting to the free-throw line, scoring and offensive rebounding was good.”
Neither team sank a 3 until Royer connected more than six minutes into the second half.
Coming off the bench didn’t hamper Eversley’s game. The former Rice transfer exploited the cutting lanes in UC Davis’ zone defense to slam a two-handed dunk on an assist from Jamal Johnson in the first half.
The slam gave the Mustangs a 15-12 lead with 11:14 left in the first and ignited a 12-2 Cal Poly run that stretched over four minutes.
Cutting to the basket allowed Eversley to convert on a couple more layups and helped him get to the free-throw line, where he was 5 for 7. Cutting is a part of the game Eversley has really focused on, and playing against zone defenses is something Eversley needed to adapt to through repetitions and time, Callero said, after starring in a Chicago prep hoops scene where he faced mostly man defenses.
“It’s just kind of been slowing the game down for me,” Eversley said. “The passing lanes, I’m just seeing them and attacking them. Before I would just kind of stand there and look at them. Now, my team is telling me, cut and we’ll find you.”
Center J.T. Adenrele fouled out with 16 points and was the only UC Davis player in double figures. Les, Eddie Miller and Tyrell Corbin each scored eight.
Next up for Cal Poly is a visit from Pacific in Saturday’s regular-season finale. The Mustangs can clinch the No. 4 seed for the Big West Tournament with a victory.
The talk amongst the team before Thursday’s game was how much Cal Poly needed a two-game sweep to ride some momentum into the tournament. The victory over the Aggies won’t mean much if the Mustangs lose to the Tigers.
“Saturday’s game is going to be very important as well,” Hanson said, “to be able to carry what we did tonight and do that versus Pacific and then hopefully replicate that and bring that into the tournament.”