SANTA BARBARA – Junior forward Josh Martin scored a team leading 20 points and senior guard Victor Joseph added 16, but UC Santa Barbara shot 67.7 percent during the second half Saturday evening as the Cal Poly men's basketball program closed the regular season with an 86-61 loss to the Gauchos inside The Thunderdome.
Senior forward Luke Meikle added eight points for Cal Poly (9-21, 4-12), which finished tied for seventh place in the final Big West Conference standings and will open the 43rd Big West Tournament on Thursday, March 8 as the field's No. 7 seed with an 8:30 p.m. quarterfinal round matchup versus second-seeded UC Santa Barbara.
The quarterfinal game marks the third time in the last five years that the Mustangs and Gauchos will meet in the Big West Tournament opening round.
Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara split the 2017-18 season series with the Mustangs producing an 80-79 victory in San Luis Obispo (Jan. 4).
Junior forward Aleks Abrams grabbed a team leading six rebounds for Cal Poly.
During Saturday's matchup, a Martin layup provided the Mustangs a 10-8 lead after nine minutes. UC Santa Barbara, however, knocked down three-pointers on four of its next five possessions and, with a 14-0 run, the Gauchos went up 22-10 nine minutes before the break.
Martin helped counter by sinking three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to bring UC Santa Barbara's lead down to six points with eight minutes left in the half.
Cal Poly eventually closed to a 34-29 deficit following Joseph's third three-pointer of the opening half, but the Gauchos took a 37-29 lead into the break after forward Leland King II hit his third three of the half with a minute to play.
The Gauchos began the second half by hitting three-pointers during their first three possessions before a dunk from forward Jalen Canty stretched UC Santa Barbara's lead to 48-29 with 17 minutes remaining.
Cal Poly closed within 13 points of UC Santa Barbara's lead four times down the stretch, the last instance occurring with the Mustangs trailing 61-48 with 11 minutes to play following one of Martin's four three-pointers.