POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO
ROSEMONT, Ill. – Senior forward David Hanson scored a team-high 13 points and senior forward Will Taylor and senior guard Amaurys Fermin each added 11, but the Cal Poly men's basketball team, which had a chance to send Wednesday's matchup against DePaul into overtime, instead saw junior guard Dylan Royer miss a three-pointer with seven seconds to play and eventually fell against the Blue Demons inside the Allstate Arena, 63-58.
Hanson (above) and Taylor added 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively, for Cal Poly (8-4), which cut DePaul's lead to 61-58 with 30 seconds remaining following a Hanson layup. The Mustangs were then forced to foul Blue Demon sophomore guard Cleveland Melvin on the ensuing possession, but the reigning Big East Conference Freshman of the Year selection missed both of his free throw attempts. With time expiring, however, Royer – the Big West Conference's leading three-pointer shooter at 58.3 percent – missed from the left wing. Melvin seized the rebound and nailed two free throws to ice the game for the Blue Demons (9-3).
Fermin matched a career high with eight assists for Cal Poly, which fell short in its bid to match the 2001-02 Mustang squad for the best start to a season during the program's 18-year Division I tenure. Cal Poly, which also saw a three-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday, completes its pre-Big West slate when hosting NAIA Hope International on Thursday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m.
With assistance from their full-court press, the Blue Demons – Cal Poly's first Big East opponent since falling at Boston College on Nov. 25, 1994 – eased into a 5-0 lead after just 35 seconds through a lay-in from Melvin and a three-pointer by senior guard Jeremiah Kelly.
Through a trio of hard-fought layups by Hanson, the Mustangs were able to recover from the early deficit and eventually grabbed a 10-8 lead five-and-a-half minutes into action following a pair of free throws from senior center Will Donahue
Trailing 14-9, however, the Blue Demons held the Mustangs scoreless for more than nine minutes and, at the other end of the court, posted a 13-0 run to reclaim a 22-14 advantage. Hanson eventually ended Cal Poly's drought with a free throw and the Mustangs narrowed DePaul's lead to 23-17 with two free throws from Fermin. The Blue Demons, however, led at the half, 28-21.
A pair of Royer three-pointers allowed the Mustangs to close to within five points of DePaul's lead early in the second half, but it was a Fermin three-pointer that capped a 13-5 Mustang run and sliced the Blue Demon advantage to 42-39 with 12-and-a-half minutes remaining.
DePaul responded by holding the Mustangs to just a solitary field goal during the ensuing three minutes, but Cal Poly stayed within sight of the Blue Demons after Will Donahue knocked down a pair of jumpers and junior guard Drake U'u converted a steal into a layup. Trailing 51-47, Cal Poly then saw Taylor and U'u land layups in rapid succession to help the Mustangs claw to a one-point deficit with six minutes remaining.
DePaul failed to lead by more than five points the remainder of the night as a three-point play by U'u helped the Mustangs close to a 58-56 chasm with two minutes to play.
Cal Poly, which committed just eight turnovers, outrebounded the Blue Demons, 42-36.