Cal Poly Men’s Basketball Hangs on to Top San Francisco, 78-71

Cal Poly Men’s Basketball Hangs on to Top San Francisco, 78-71

POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO

SAN FRANCISCO – Junior wing David Nwaba (right) scored a season-high 19 points and junior guard Reese Morgan added a season-best 17 as the Cal Poly men's basketball team produced the program's first victory at San Francisco with a 78-71 triumph against the Dons inside War Memorial Gym on Monday evening.

Junior Brian Bennett added 14 points and fellow forward Joel Awich grabbed a career-high nine rebounds for Cal Poly (4-4), which won its first non-conference road game since stunning then-No. 11 UCLA 70-68 on Nov. 26, 2012. Playing the second matchup of a seven-game road trip, Cal Poly shot a season-best 50.9 (27-for-53) percent from the floor, outrebounded San Francisco (5-5) 41-30 and blocked a season-high six shots.

Cal Poly, which had dropped its last four decisions at San Francisco dating to the first meeting between the two sides on Jan. 24, 1961, continues its seven-game road trip when facing Northeastern on Wednesday, Dec. 17 to open Santa Clara's 48th annual Cable Car Classic.

Leading by as much as 53-39 with 12 minutes to play, Cal Poly conceded a 20-8 run during a six-minute span as the Dons clawed to a 61-59 deficit. Three-and-a-half minutes later, a three-pointer by San Francisco junior forward Mark Tollefsen tied the matchup at 68-68.

San Francisco senior guard Matt Glover then broke another deadlock and handed the Dons a 70-69 advantage with two minutes left after sinking two free throws. On the next possession, however, Awich – Cal Poly's leading free throw shooter at 94.4 (17-for-18) percent – switched the lead toward Cal Poly for good with a pair of free throws. The Mustangs then converted two missed San Francisco free throws into an Nwaba jumper before Bennett added another jumper en route to securing victory.

Helped by a layup and three-point play by junior guard Tim Derksen, San Francisco led 7-0 inside two minutes. Cal Poly, however, battled back with four successive baskets during the ensuing two-minute span to grab its first lead of the night.

Derksen countered with a jumper seconds later, but neither side led by more than four points until an 11-1 Cal Poly run during a three-minute span midway through the half put the Mustangs up 24-17 with eight minutes left.

San Francisco stemmed Cal Poly's run with a layup from senior forward Kruize Pinkins, but the Mustangs cobbled together another 7-3 run to go up by as much as 31-22 before taking a 34-27 advantage into halftime.

Cal Poly, which shot 48.0 (12-for-25) percent in the first half, forced San Francisco into nine turnovers and blocked four Dons shots.

Keyed by two jumpers from Awich inside the opening minute of the second half and two more by Bennett, Cal Poly opened with a 10-3 run to increase its lead to 44-30 with 17 minutes to play.

The Mustangs maintained their double-digit lead until the third of four three-pointers by San Francisco senior guard Chris Adams brought the Dons to a 57-50 deficit with nine minutes to play. Two minutes later, Adams added his final three-pointer to bring the Dons within four of the Mustangs at 59-55.

Photo courtesy of Alexander Bohlen