POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Senior guard Reese Morgan knocked (above) down five three-pointers to finish with a game high 16 points Tuesday evening, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program – after trailing No. 19/20 Texas A&M by 19 points in the first half and cutting its deficit to single digits in the second – fell inside Reed Arena, 82-63.
Senior forward Brian Bennett added 13 points for Cal Poly (6-7), which committed 11 first-half turnovers and just two in the second to cut its deficit to nine points with 10 minutes remaining. Texas A&M (10-2), however, closed the matchup on a 25-15 run and held Cal Poly under 70 points for just the second time this season.
Facing an SEC opponent for the first and only time since visiting Vanderbilt on Nov. 29, 2001, Cal Poly was held to a 38.6 (22-for-57) percent field goal mark while the Aggies shot 49.2 (31-for-63) percent from the floor.
Closing the 2015 calendar year against the program's only scheduled ranked opponent, Cal Poly also received 11 points from junior guard Ridge Shipley, 10 from senior guard David Nwaba and a team leading seven rebounds by junior forward Zach Gordon.
Cal Poly opens its 20th season of Big West Conference action at Hawai'i on Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 9 p.m. PT.
Two Morgan three-pointers and a layup by senior forward Joel Awich helped Cal Poly keep an early 8-8 pace with the Aggies, but Texas A&M knocked down three successive three-pointers as part of an 13-0 run to lead 24-9 after nine minutes.
Forced into eight turnovers during the opening nine minutes, Cal Poly received a jumper from sophomore guard Taylor Sutlive to stem the Aggie run. Texas A&M, however, answered with layups from center Tyler Davis and forward D.J. Hogg on successive possessions and led 32-13 with eight minutes remaining in the opening half.
Facing its largest deficit of the game, Cal Poly received Morgan's third three-pointer of the half, a Nwaba three-point play and a Shipley three-pointer to close the gap to 33-22.
However, the Aggies – who shot 47.1 (16-for-34) percent during the first half – scored the next seven points and despite three late Bennett layups, Cal Poly trailed at the break, 44-29.
The 29 points by Cal Poly marked just the second time this season that the Mustangs had been held under 30 points in a first half.
Having forced Texas A&M into three turnovers to open the second half, Cal Poly received layups from Gordon and Nwaba to bridge the gap to 46-35 with 18 minutes remaining. Eight minutes later, two free throws from sophomore forward Luke Meikle cut the gap to single digits at 57-48.
The nine-point deficit was as close as Cal Poly would climb, however, as Aggies guard Jalen Jones hit a three-pointer, jumper and two free throws on successive possessions to push Texas A&M's lead to 16 with seven minutes to play.
A three-pointer by Aggie guard Alex Caruso and two from guard Anthony Collins in the next two minutes then placed the game out of reach for Cal Poly.