Seventh-seeded Cal Poly men's basketball team moved into the Big West Conference Tournament semifinal round for the third year by upsetting No. 2 UC Santa Barbara in a Thursday afternoon quarterfinal matchup at the Honda Center, 69-38. Cal Poly plays the Anteaters of UC-Irvine beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday night.
In Thursday's game, sophomores Joel Awich and David Nwaba (right) both added 11 points for Cal Poly (11-19), which advanced to face a yet-to-be determined opponent in one of Friday's 6:30 p.m. or 9 p.m. semifinal matchups. That semifinal pairing will be made available later tonight. The Big West Tournament title game, with automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament hanging in the balance, is set for Saturday, March 15 at 7 p.m.
Senior guards Kyle Odister and Jamal Johnson both finished with nine points for Cal Poly, which held an opponent under 40 points for the first time since topping Pacific 67-38 on March 3, 2012. The 38 points scored by UC Santa Barbara were the fewest by a team in the Big West Tournament since Utah State defeated Pacific in the 2001 title game, 50-38. Cal Poly also recorded its largest margin of victory at the Big West Tournament. Under fifth-year Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero, Cal Poly has won its opening game in the Big West Tournament four times.
The loss by UC Santa Barbara (21-9), which received a game-best 19 points from guard Michael Bryson, marked the sixth time in the past seven Big West Tournaments that the No. 2 seed has been eliminated in its opening game.
Keyed by successive putbacks from forward Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara sprinted to a 7-0 lead after just two minutes. Cal Poly, however, countered with an Odister three-pointer and layups from Awich and Nwaba to quickly tie the matchup.
Facing a 12-7 deficit at the 14-minute mark, Cal Poly once again answered, this time compiling a 15-0 run during a six-and-a-half minute span to go up 22-12.
The Mustangs, who shot 59.3 (16-for-27) percent from the floor during the first half and held the Gauchos to a 33.3 (8-for-24) percent clip, maintained their double-digit lead for a majority of the half. Leading 28-17 with six minutes left, Cal Poly – which committed just one turnover in the first half – closed the opening period with a 12-3 run to go up 41-20 at the break.
During the first half, 17 of UC Santa Barbara's 20 points came from Bryson (11) and Williams (seven).
The Mustangs conceded a brief 6-1 run to open the second half with UC Santa Barbara shaving Cal Poly's advantage to 42-26 with 16 minutes to play. Cal Poly, however, received three-pointers from Shipley and senior forward Chris Eversley in the ensuing minutes to establish another 20-point lead.
Cal Poly led by more than 20 points the remainder of the game and by holding UC Santa Barbara without a field goal for a six-minute span late in the second half, led by as much as 69-33.