SANTA CLARA – Junior forward Brian Bennett scored a season-high 19 points as the Cal Poly men's basketball program opened Santa Clara's 48th annual Cable Car Classic by overturning a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat Northeastern 60-58 inside the Leavey Center on Wednesday evening.
Junior wing David Nwaba added 17 points and junior guard Kyle Toth scored a Mustang-best 11 for Cal Poly (5-4), which trailed 31-17 at the break before shooting 65.4 (17-for-26) percent in the second half.
The Mustangs, who trailed Northeastern (6-3) for the opening 39 minutes, eight seconds, took their only lead of the night at 59-58 following the second of junior guard Reese Morgan's two free throws. Northeastern junior guard David Walker missed a three-pointer on the opposite end and the Huskies fouled Morgan once again to gain the ball back.
Morgan sank one of two attempts with 30 seconds remaining and with Northeastern working for the last shot of the game, Nwaba blocked Huskies junior guard Quincy Ford's three-point attempt at the buzzer to secure Cal Poly's victory.
Cal Poly, which won its sixth neutral-site game in the last eight outings, shot 47.2 (25-for-52) percent from the floor during the game. The nation's leader with just 7.1 turnovers committed per game, Cal Poly turned the ball over just five times.
Junior wing Joel Awich matched a career high with nine rebounds while Bennett also pulled down a season-high nine rebounds.
Cal Poly continues its 12-day, five-game road trip when squaring off against No. 8 Gonzaga in the 2014 Battle in Seattle on Saturday, Dec. 20. Tip time inside Key Arena is 7 p.m.
In the first and only meeting between the two sides since Cal Poly topped Northeastern on Nov. 30, 1996, the Huskies leapt out to a 16-6 lead after nine minutes as the Mustangs were held to a 21.4 (3-for-14) percent start from the floor.
Nwaba eventually broke a five-minute scoring drought with a transition dunk before adding a layup on the next possession to spur a 9-3 Cal Poly run that brought the Mustangs to a 19-15 deficit six-and-a-half minutes before the break.
However, Northeastern – selected first in the Colonial Athletic Association preseason poll – held Cal Poly to just one more basket the rest of the half as the Huskies closed with a 12-2 run to go up 31-17 at intermission.
Keyed by successive Bennett layups inside the opening 50 seconds, Cal Poly began the second half by hitting seven of its first eight attempts from the floor and utilized a 15-4 run to close the deficit to 35-32 with 15 minutes to play.
The Mustangs pulled within three points of Northeastern once more before a Bennett jumper with three minutes to play shorted Cal Poly's deficit to 56-55.