SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Senior forward Luke Meikle's three free throws with 0.3 seconds remaining lifted Cal Poly, which trailed by 21 points four times in the first half, to an 80-79 victory over Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara in a Big West Conference men's basketball opener Thursday night before 2,631 inside Mott Athletics Center.
Mustang junior guard Donovan Fields scored a reverse layup with 15 seconds to play, tying the game at 77-77. Max Heidegger hit a jump shot from the left corner of the key with one second remaining to give the visiting Gauchos a 79-77 advantage.
After a Cal Poly timeout, Meikle took a 50-foot pass from Fields at half court and was fouled by Jalen Canty while launching a 50-foot shot toward the basket. After a lengthy review to confirm the time remaining, Meikle made all three free throws with 0.3 seconds left for a one-point lead.
Marcus Jackson's half-court shot at the buzzer for the Gauchos fell short.
In winning its Big West opener for the fifth time in the last seven years, Cal Poly improved to 6-9 for the season. UC Santa Barbara, which had won 10 of its last 11 games, fell to 11-4.
UC Santa Barbara was paced by Canty with 21 points, hitting nine of 13 field goals. Heidegger finished with 18 points, Gabe Vincent 13 and Leland King II 12.
Cal Poly snapped a seven-game losing streak against UC Santa Barbara with Thursday's win and beat the Gauchos at home for the first time since 2013.
UC Santa Barbara made its first seven floor shots and nine of 12, racing to leads of 23-2, 25-4, 27-6 and 29-8 as Cal Poly misfired on 11 of its first 12 field goal attempts.
Trailing by 21 with 9:27 remaining in the first half, Cal Poly went on a 28-11 run to close out the half and get back into the game, trailing 40-36 at the break.
While the Gauchos led the entire first half, the second half was far more different with the game tied nine times and the lead changing hands 13 times.
Despite the sizzling start, UC Santa Barbara finished just 46 percent from the floor, including six of 18 from three-point range. Cal Poly connected on 43.5 percent for the game, eight of 17 from long range.
The Gauchos built a 42-34 advantage on the boards, led by King with 15 and Canty with 10. Playing 18 minutes off the bench, freshman forward Karlis Garoza from Latvia grabbed seven boards for the Mustangs.
Joseph has scored in double figures 14 times in 15 games this season. Martin's three blocked shots are a career high. Cal Poly turned the ball over just six times for the game, second-lowest total of the season, and only two turnovers in the second half.
Cal Poly returns to the Mott Athletics Center hardwood Saturday night to host Cal State Fullerton at 7:05 p.m. The Titans opened Big West play Wednesday night with a 68-65 home win over UC Riverside.