FULLERTON – Junior guard Reese Morgan scored a season-high 21 points and senior guard Maliik Love (right) added 12 as the Cal Poly men's basketball team outdistanced Cal State Fullerton in the second half, stretching a two-point halftime lead into a 65-54 triumph inside Titan Gym Thursday evening.
Junior forward Brian Bennett chipped in 10 points and a team-leading seven rebounds for Cal Poly (13-11, 6-6), which trailed Cal State Fullerton (9-17, 1-10) 31-27 with 16 minutes to play before producing a 30-11 run to put the game out of reach.
The Mustangs shot 46.8 (22-for-47) percent from the floor, conceded a 54.5 (24-for-44) percent mark to the Titans, but won their first game this season when being outshot by committing just seven turnovers. Cal Poly remains No. 3 among 345 Division I programs with just 8.9 turnovers committed per 24 games this season.
Cal Poly also shot 47.1 (8-for-17) percent from three-point range and sunk 13 of 16 (81.3 percent) free throw attempts.
With Thursday's win, Cal Poly moved into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Big West Conference standings alongside Hawai'i (18-9, 6-6) and UC Riverside (13-13, 6-6). The trio trails third-place Long Beach State (13-15, 7-5) by a single game and fourth-place UC Santa Barbara (13-12, 6-5) by a half-game.
Cal Poly looks to break its fifth-place deadlock when visiting UC Riverside on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.
Limited to a 2-for-12 start from the floor and held scoreless for an early six-and-a-half minute stretch, Cal Poly found itself trailing 12-7 eight minutes before the break.
However, Cal Poly – which forced Cal State Fullerton into seven first-half turnovers – received a three-point play from Morgan to spark a 12-2 run that placed the Mustangs up 19-14 with four minutes remaining in the half.
The Mustangs led by as much as 25-18 two minutes later following a Morgan layup, but Cal Poly conceded a three-pointer to junior guard Lanerryl Johnson and a layup to junior forward Temjae Singleton inside the final minute of the half and held to a two-point lead at the break.
Three-pointers on successive possessions by senior wing Michael Bolden, sophomore guard Ridge Shipley and Morgan helped Cal Poly erase a 2-for-9 shooting start in the second half. Shipley then added a layup to a cap an 11-2 Mustang run as Cal Poly established a 40-33 lead with 10 minutes to play.
Titans sophomore guard Jordan Mason briefly stalled Cal Poly's surge with a layup, but the Mustangs responded with two free throws and a three-pointer from Morgan and a Bennett layup to grab the first double-digit lead of the night at 47-35 with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Cal Poly, which maintained its double-digit lead the remainder of the evening, then produced an 8-4 run to lead by as much as 57-39 down the stretch.