POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Freshman guard Reese Morgan (right) scored a career-high 26 points – including hitting seven three-pointers – and junior forward Chris Eversley added 16 and a career-best 15 rebounds, but the Cal Poly men's basketball team suffered an 83-81 double-overtime defeat against Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara on Saturday evening at The Thunderdome.
Leading 79-77 with 78 seconds remaining in the second overtime, Cal Poly freshman forward Joel Awich fouled junior guard Kyle Boswell on a three-point attempt. Boswell, who finished with 23 points, sunk all three free throws to put the Gauchos up by one. Cal Poly (7-9, 3-3) regained a one-point lead on the ensuing possession through a Drake U'u layup, but Boswell – fouled again by Mustang junior guard Jamal Johnson while driving for a layup with 12 seconds to play – rounded off a three-point play to cement the final margin of victory. The Mustangs enjoyed one more chance to extend the game, but an Eversley jumper from the right corner fell short as time expired.
Morgan, whose 26 points were the highest single-game total by a Mustang since All-Big West Conference selection David Hanson scored 28 during a Dec. 21, 2010 win at Pepperdine, sunk his seventh three-pointer with a minute to play in regulation to put Cal Poly up 66-63. UC Santa Barbara freshman forward Taran Brown, however, matched Morgan on the ensuing possession to help send Saturday's matchup to overtime after Johnson missed a jumper at the buzzer.
Brown knocked down another three-pointer to open the first overtime, but Cal Poly received a layup from freshman forward Brian Bennett, a Johnson free throw and a Morgan jumper to snatch a 71-69 lead. Gaucho freshman forward Mitch Brewe, however, rolled in a layup with 11 seconds on the clock to square the scoreline at 71-71. On the ensuing possession, Johnson inadvertently skipped a pass out of bounds and UC Santa Barbara senior guard Nate Garth missed a three-pointer at the horn as the contest advanced into a second overtime period – Cal Poly's first since defeating UC Riverside, 87-84, on Feb. 13, 2010.
Held to a single Eversley layup during the opening five minutes of the game, the Mustangs turned an early 8-3 deficit into a 14-11 advantage by keeping UC Santa Barbara (7-10, 3-3) without a field goal for a six-minute span midway through the first half. Fueled by three-pointers from Awich and Morgan, Cal Poly then compiled a 10-4 run to stretch the lead to 24-15 with six minutes remaining in the half.
Still leading 29-21 with three minutes left in the first half, Cal Poly surrendered layups to Brewe and Garth while Boswell knocked down a pair of free throws to pull UC Santa Barbara to within two points of the Mustang lead. However, Eversley – who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds during the opening period – hit three free throws with seven-tenths of a second left in the half to provide Cal Poly a 32-27 lead at the break.
Morgan knocked down two three-pointers inside the opening two-and-a-half minutes of the second half and Mustang senior guard Dylan Royer followed with a jumper to push Cal Poly's cushion to 42-34. UC Santa Barbara, however, responded with a three-point play from Brewe and a layup from freshman guard Michael Bryson to pull back within three points of the Mustang lead with 16 minutes remaining in regulation.
Still leading by three points at the 14-minute mark, the Mustangs received a three-point play and three-pointer from Morgan on successive possessions to go back ahead 51-42. Holding on to a 54-47 lead with 10 minutes left, however, Cal Poly relinquished an 8-0 run during a four-minute span to hand UC Santa Barbara a 55-54 lead.
The lead changed hands three more times until a free throw from Mustang senior guard Chris O'Brien placed Cal Poly in a 63-62 ascendancy with just under two minutes to play. Gaucho freshman forward Sam Beeler added a free throw moments later to deadlock the game on one of 12 occasions before Morgan unlocked the matchup with his seventh three-pointer.
Royer and Bennett each added nine points apiece for Cal Poly, which opens a two-game home stand when hosting Hawai'i on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. inside the Mott Athletics Center.