Senior forwards Brian Bennett and Joel Awich scored 14 points apiece to lead five Cal Poly players in double figures, and the Mustangs cruised to a 85-55 victory over University of Antelope Valley Saturday night at Mott Athletics Center.
In winning its fourth consecutive game, Cal Poly improved to 4-2 overall with home matchups against IPFW and Fresno State scheduled for later this week. Awich reached double-digit scoring for the sixth straight time to start the season and matched teammate David Nwaba with a game-high eight rebounds.
Following a six-day break between games, the Mustangs got off to a slow start and held a nine-point lead against the NAIA-level Pioneers at halftime. A 23-9 run to start the second half quickly sealed the outcome, with Cal Poly committing only one turnover in the final 20 minutes.
“The disappointing part was we took an entire half to really generate the energy,” head coach Joe Callero said.
Bobby Jackson came off the bench to score 13 points for Antelope Valley (1-6), which is fielding a men’s basketball team for the first time in school history. First-year head coach Brad Rogers will lead the Pioneers into their inaugural season competing in the California Pacific Conference this winter.
Entering Saturday’s matchup, the 6-foot-7 Awich was averaging a team-best 15.8 points and six rebounds per contest. After helping the Mustangs win the regional round of the Maui Invitational last weekend, Awich garnered Big West Conference player of the week honors for the first time in his career.
He was an efficient 6 for 13 from the field and blocked two shots in 23 minutes Saturday night.
The powerful 6-foot-9, 288-pound Bennett went 6 for 8 from the field and pulled down five rebounds in 19 minutes. It was the first time Bennett reached double-digit scoring this season as the second-team all-Big West center continues to recover from offseason knee and ankle injuries.
“The more time has past, the more they haven’t hurt,” Bennett said. “I’m just feeling better every day, getting more in shape and just keep going.”
Reserve forward Luke Meikle chipped in 13 points and five rebounds, point guard Ridge Shipley added 12 and Reese Morgan finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Taylor Sutlive recorded a career-high six assists to go with six points and five rebounds in 25 minutes.
Aleks Abrams likely done for the year
Callero said sophomore forward Aleks Abrams will likely miss the rest of the season after dislocating his left shoulder last week.
With Bennett still returning to form, Abrams was expected to be in the starting frontcourt alongside Awich. He played 28 combined minutes in four games and left Cal Poly’s contest against Austin Peay Nov. 21 with the injury.
Callero also said three days after Abrams’ injury, true freshman Serigne Athj suffered the same injury to his left shoulder. Athj, a 6-4 guard from Pasadena, is redshirting this season along with forward Hank Hollingsworth.
Martin eligible to play against Saint Mary’s
Sophomore forward Josh Martin’s yearlong wait to play for Cal Poly is nearly over.
Martin transferred to Cal Poly from Minnesota last December after appearing in seven games for the Gophers as a true freshman. The 6-8, 212-pound Martin will provide some added size and energy to the Mustangs’ frontcourt immediately.
During his standout prep career Bothell High in Seattle, Martin averaged 27.1 points, 14 rebounds and five assists per game and was nominated for McDonald’s All-America honors as a senior.
“A lot of guys are athletic but maybe they don’t have that passion pill all the time,” Callero said. “He’s a go-getter. He’s going to make something happen. We need that kind of spark.”