Reese Morgan hit three late-3 pointers, including the game-winner in overtime, and came up with the clinching steal and free throws as the Cal Poly men’s basketball team came away with a 61-57 victory over Hawaii in the Big West Conference opener in Honolulu on Wednesday night.
Morgan missed an open 3 at the regulation buzzer for Cal Poly (8-5, 1-0 Big West) and was just 3 of 12 from the field overall but helped the Mustangs erase a 47-43 deficit in the final minutes then came up big in overtime.
Brian Bennett had a season-high 20 points for Cal Poly. Morgan had 17, including a perfect 8 for 8 at the free-throw line.
With 4:21 left in regulation and Hawaii holding a four-point lead, Bennett hit two free throws, Morgan hit two more then Morgan capped a 7-0 run with a 3, his first field goal of the game.
Bennett added a layup with 1:16 left to tie it at 51-51, and the score remained tied as time expired.
In overtime, Morgan scored eight of Cal Poly’s 10 points, including two 3-pointers, and stole an inbound pass with two seconds left.
Hawaii took its first lead since the opening basket at 43-42 after back-to-back scores by Aaron Valdes with 7:10 left. Valdes nailed a deep 3 to cut Cal Poly’s advantage to one. Then, during a Hawaii trap near midcourt, Valdes pounced on an errant Mustangs pass and took it all the way to the hoop for an easy dunk.
Cal Poly had lead ever since it was 4-2 less than three minutes into the first half.
Hawaii extended the lead to 45-42 on a Stefan Jankovic basket that capped a 17-5 run.
Valdes scored 20 points, and was the lone player in double figures for the Warriors (12-5, 0-1 Big West). David Nwaba had seven points and was held to single digits for the first time this season for the Mustangs.
Cal Poly led by as many as 12 points in the first half and went into the break up 30-27 thanks to an early scoring drought by the Warriors.
After Hawaii took the initial lead on a jumper by Roderick Bobbitt in the first two minutes of the game, Cal Poly put together a 14-0 run that lasted for nearly the next five minutes and was capped by a 3-pointer by Joel Awich.
It was 16-4 when a minor brouhaha broke out on the Warriors’ end of the court.
Ridge Shipley was whistled for a personal foul reaching in on a rebound attempt, and when a Hawaii player hit the deck after colliding with Reese Morgan, Shipley was shoved in retaliation.
As Shipley stumbled from the low block all the way out near half court, Cal Poly freshman big man Aleks Abrams was involved in another shoving incident, and he and Hawaii’s Isaac Fleming were whistled for a double technical.
The Warriors, who went nearly six minutes between field goals, eventually cut the gap to nine, but the Mustangs pushed the lead back to double digits when Nwaba took a steal at midcourt and streaked down the right lane for a monster one-handed slam that made it 20-9 with 7:30 left before the half.
That’s when momentum shifted.
While Hawaii was on its way to shooting just 21.5 percent from the floor in the first half, Cal Poly began putting the Warriors on the free-throw line. The Mustangs were whistled for 14 first-half fouls, and five Cal Poly players went into the break with two fouls apiece. Of Hawaii’s 23 first-half points, 10 came on free throws.Cal Poly, which came into the game leading the nation with just 8.4 turnovers per game, turned the ball over seven times in the first half alone, allowing Hawaii to cut the lead to four at separate points late in the first half.