ANAHEIM, Calif. – Freshman guard Ridge Shipley scored a career-high 15 points as the seventh-seeded Cal Poly men's basketball program moved into the Big West Conference Tournament semifinal round for the third successive year by annihilating Blue-Green rival and No. 2 UC Santa Barbara in a Thursday afternoon quarterfinal matchup at the Honda Center, 69-38.
Sophomores Joel Awich and David Nwaba (right) both added 11 points for Cal Poly (11-19), which advanced to face top-seeded UC Irvine in a 6:30 p.m. semifinal matchup on Friday, March 14. The Big West Tournament title game, with automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament hanging in the balance, is set for Saturday, March 15 at 7 p.m.
Senior guards Kyle Odister and Jamal Johnson both finished with nine points for Cal Poly, which held an opponent under 40 points for the first time since topping Pacific 67-38 on March 3, 2012. The 38 points scored by UC Santa Barbara were the fewest by a team in the Big West Tournament since Utah State defeated Pacific in the 2001 title game, 50-38. Cal Poly also recorded its largest margin of victory at the Big West Tournament. Under fifth-year Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero, Cal Poly has won its opening game in the Big West Tournament four times.
The loss by UC Santa Barbara (21-9), which received a game-best 19 points from guard Michael Bryson, marked the sixth time in the past seven Big West Tournaments that the No. 2 seed has been eliminated in its opening game.
Keyed by successive putbacks from forward Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara sprinted to a 7-0 lead after just two minutes. Cal Poly, however, countered with an Odister three-pointer and layups from Awich and Nwaba to quickly tie the matchup.
Facing a 12-7 deficit at the 14-minute mark, Cal Poly once again answered, this time compiling a 15-0 run during a six-and-a-half minute span to go up 22-12.
The Mustangs, who shot 59.3 (16-for-27) percent from the floor during the first half and held the Gauchos to a 33.3 (8-for-24) percent clip, maintained their double-digit lead for a majority of the half. Leading 28-17 with six minutes left, Cal Poly – which committed just one turnover in the first half – closed the opening period with a 12-3 run to go up 41-20 at the break.
During the first half, 17 of UC Santa Barbara's 20 points came from Bryson (11) and Williams (seven).
The Mustangs conceded a brief 6-1 run to open the second half with UC Santa Barbara shaving Cal Poly's advantage to 42-26 with 16 minutes to play. Cal Poly, however, received three-pointers from Shipley and senior forward Chris Eversley in the ensuing minutes to establish another 20-point lead.
Cal Poly failed to trail by fewer than 20 points the remainder of the day and, in holding UC Santa Barbara without a field goal for a six-minute span late in the second half, led by as much as 69-33.
Photo courtesy of Ian Billings / Mustang News