Mustangs Advance to Big West Tournament Semifinals with 64-41 Triumph
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ANAHEIM, Calif. – Senior guard Dylan Royer (right) scored a game-high 17 points as the third-seeded Cal Poly men's basketball program strolled into the semifinal round of the 2013 Big West Conference Tournament with a 64-41 triumph against No. 6 UC Davis inside the Honda Center on Thursday afternoon.
Senior guard Drake U'u added 10 points for Cal Poly (18-12), which led by one at the break before outscoring UC Davis 44-22 during the second half. Cal Poly, which limited UC Davis (14-17) to the lowest point output by a Mustang opponent this season, also held the Aggies to a 36.4 (16-for-44) percent field goal mark.
With Thursday's victory, Cal Poly advanced to face second-seeded Pacific (20-12) on Friday, March 15 at 9 p.m. The semifinal matchup will be televised live on ESPNU. The Tigers eliminated seventh-seeded UC Santa Barbara earlier Thursday, 71-68.
The championship game of the Big West Tournament – which an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament hanging in the balance – is scheduled for Saturday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2. Cal Poly has never won the Big West Tournament and only twice advanced to the championship game (2003, 2007).
Cal Poly also furthered its current winning streak to six successive victories with Thursday's triumph, matching the lengthiest spurt under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero and longest since winning nine successive en route to reaching the 2007 Big West Tournament championship game.
Down 5-0 after two-and-a-half minutes after Aggie junior guard Ryan Sypkens – the nation's leading three-point shooter – buried the first of his two on the day, the Mustangs responded by holding UC Davis scoreless for a six-minute span to grab an early 10-5 lead.
Cal Poly, however, found itself unable to score during an ensuing seven-minute span. UC Davis, after holding the Mustangs to a 4-for-20 shooting start from the floor, quickly deadlocked the scoreline at 12-12 with six minutes left in the opening half.
The two programs traded the lead four times the remainder of the half with Cal Poly finally wresting a 19-16 advantage with three minutes to play following the second of Royer's five three-pointers. Eversley then added a late free throw to put Cal Poly up 20-19 at the break.
After being held to a 28.0 (7-for-25) percent showing from the floor during the first half, Cal Poly exploded offensively to begin the second. U'u rolled home two layups inside the opening minute before putting back a missed shot from freshman forward Joe Awich. Royer – five-for-five from the arc on the night – then sank a three-pointer from the right wing before hitting two free throws to cap Cal Poly's 11-0 run during the opening three minutes.
Aggie senior guard Paolo Mancasola broke the Mustang run with a layup that shortened the UC Davis deficit to 31-21, but Cal Poly failed the lead by less than double digits just once the remainder of the day.
Leading 35-26 with 14 minutes to play, Cal Poly received a three-pointer from Royer and a jumper from Eversley before freshman forward Zach Gordon followed an errant Eversley free throw with a lay-in to boost the Mustang advantage to 42-26.
Cal Poly freshman forward Brian Bennett finished with a game-high nine rebounds.