LAS VEGAS – Three Mustangs produced new career scoring highs led by graduate guard Malek Harwell's 19-point performance, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program closed the 2019 Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational inside the Orleans Arena Friday afternoon with an 82-69 loss to first-time opponent Long Island University in the third-place game.
Freshman guard Colby Rogers finished with 16 points for Cal Poly (1-7), which shaved LIU's second-half lead down to five points with 10 minutes to play. Playing its fourth game in eight days in a third different state, however, Cal Poly – which sank 10 three-pointers – drew no closer down the stretch.
Facing just its second Northeast Conference opponent in program history and the first in 27 seasons, Cal Poly also received a career best 10 points from freshman forward Alimamy Koroma.
Harwell, who finished 11-for-11 from the free throw line, matched a collegiate best with eight rebounds.
After playing seven of its first eight games on the road, Cal Poly returns home to Mott Athletics Center to face Siena on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
During Friday's matchup, Cal Poly exchanged two early lead changes with LIU before the Sharks limited the Mustangs to just one field goal during a four-minute span and swam out to a 21-9 advantage after just seven minutes.
Cal Poly, however, received two Rogers three-pointers and Koroma layups on three successive possessions as part of a 15-2 run that edged the Mustangs ahead at the nine-and-a-half-minute mark, 24-23.
The Mustangs though sank just three field goals the remainder of the half and took a 42-33 deficit into the break.
Still facing a 55-44 disadvantage with 13 minutes remaining, Cal Poly received a Rogers three-pointer, a Harwell free throw and a layup by junior guard Keith Smith to draw within five points of LIU's lead at 55-50.
The Sharks resurfaced, however, and notched the next two buckets to regain a double-digit lead.
Photo courtesy of Ian Billings