POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO
FULLERTON, Calif. – Senior guard Chris O'Brien (right) recorded a team-leading 13 points and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program – seeking its first four-game winning streak in two years – instead dropped a 77-60 decision against Cal State Fullerton inside Titan Gym on Wednesday evening.
Junior guard Kyle Odister added 11 points and freshman forward Joel Awich scored a career-high nine for Cal Poly (12-12, 8-6), which was held to a 39.0 (23-for-59) percent field goal mark while conceding a 56.0 (28-for-50) percent clip to the Titans (13-13, 6-8). With defeat, Cal Poly squandered a chance to move into second place in the Big West Conference standings alongside Pacific (15-11, 9-5), which fell at UC Irvine earlier Wednesday, 68-59. The Mustangs, instead, fell from third to fifth place with Wednesday's loss.
Cal Poly, 10-1 inside the Mott Athletics Center this season, returns home to host Loyola Marymount in a 7 p.m. Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster matchup on Saturday, Feb. 23.
Backboned by a pair of three-pointers from senior guard D.J. Seeley, Cal State Fullerton charged out to a 13-2 lead after six minutes. Held to a solitary field goal for the opening six minutes, Cal Poly was able to close the gap to 19-10 following the second of Odister's game-high three three-pointers with 11 minutes remaining in the half.
However, the Titans – who forced Cal Poly into nine first-half turnovers – compiled a 14-5 run during the next five minutes to push their advantage to 33-15. The Mustangs, held to a 33.3 (8-for-24) percent showing from the floor during the first half, closed to within 16 points of the Cal State Fullerton lead just once heading into the break and trailed 40-23 at intermission.
The Mustangs responded immediately to open the second half with O'Brien hitting a pair of early layups before Awich drained a three-pointer and junior guard Jamal Johnson hit a short jumper to shorten Cal Poly's gap to 43-32. The second of Awich's career-high two three-pointers moments later brought the Mustangs within single digits of the Titans at 45-36 with 15 minutes to play.
Jumpers from O'Brien and freshman guard Reese Morgan followed before another Odister three-pointer allowed Cal Poly to close to 49-43 with 12 minutes left.
Cal State Fullerton, however, held the Mustangs to just one field goal during the next five minutes and put the game out of reach for Cal Poly with a 12-2 run. Cal Poly failed to trail by fewer than 13 points the remainder of the evening.
Johnson chipped in nine points for Cal Poly while Awich matched a career high with three blocks.