Most Parade high school All-America basketball stars don’t expect as humble a start to their college careers as Cal Poly’s Reese Morgan.
The sophomore hit a 3-pointer in the first half of the Mustangs’ 81-69 victory over Texas Southern on Wednesday in the program’s first foray into the NCAA Tournament at the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, and it was almost a revelation.
Oh, yeah. That All-America shooting guard can shoot.
He’s slogged through nearly continuous knee injuries in his three years on campus, but before Morgan came to San Luis Obispo, he scored 2,430 points in his varsity career at Palos Verdes Peninsula High, averaging 27.3 points his senior season and setting a state record with 740 career free throws.
Knee trouble, however, caused him to redshirt his first season on campus, and after a redshirt freshman season in which he averaged a modest 5.9 points per game, Morgan had to have an offseason knee surgery that put him on the shelf until this past February.
Playing in only seven games leading up to the NCAA Tournament, Morgan had just one 3-pointer in 12 attempts in 40 sporadic minutes.
On Wednesday, Morgan showed flashes of his former self, hitting three of four 3-point attempts to help the Mustangs keep Texas Southern at an arm’s length. His nine points were only four fewer than his season total entering the game.
Morgan’s hot hand helped counterbalance the off night of another injury-plagued Cal Poly outside shooter.
Kyle Odister scored eight points, sinking two his three shots from inside the arc, but the senior — who’s had chronic ankle and foot injuries since his freshman season — was just 1 for 5 from 3-point range.
In just 10 minutes off the bench, Morgan stepped in to ensure Texas Southern respected the Mustangs’ outside shooting. He even grabbed a rebound and was credited for blocking a shot.
Also playing just 10 minutes, sophomore center Brian Bennett subbed in to score 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting against Texas Southern big man Aaric Murray.
The 6-foot-10 Murray had a dominant offensive effort with 38 points, but Bennett and fellow sophomore big men Joel Awich and Zach Gordon were active on the boards, limiting Murray to just two rebounds.
Gordon had four points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.
Leading scorers Chris Eversley and David Nwaba had 19 and 17 respective points for Cal Poly, 44.4 percent of the Mustangs’ total, but a deep bench, with Morgan leading the way, also made a difference.
Ten Cal Poly players logged meaningful minutes for the Mustangs, and all 10 of those scored. Just eight Texas Southern players entered the game, with only seven of those getting on the scoreboard.