POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO | BRIAN BENNETT | RIDGE SHIPLEY
SAN LUIS OBISPO – Junior forward Brian Bennett (right) secured his third career double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds and sophomore guard Ridge Shipley scored a career-high 20 points, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program – after surrendering a late first-half run to UC Irvine – never recovered and dropped a 63-56 decision to the Anteaters inside Mott Athletics Center Thursday evening.
Bennett finished 8-for-16 from the floor while Shipley hit all three of his three-pointers inside the opening four minutes for Cal Poly (13-13, 6-8), which held a 28-27 advantage five minutes prior to halftime before UC Irvine (17-10, 10-3) closed the opening half on a 13-2 run. UC Irvine, which shot 65.4 (17-for-26) percent from the floor in the first half, finished with a 58.3 (28-for-48) percent mark – the highest figure by a Mustang opponent this year.
Cal Poly closes its 2014-15 home schedule on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. versus Big West Conference-leading UC Davis.
Shipley hit Cal Poly's first three-pointer of Thursday evening and, with the game tied early at 5-5 following a Bennett layup, Cal Poly's guard added a jumper, another three-pointer and a four-point play to provide the Mustangs a 14-7 lead after four minutes.
Aided by senior forward Will Davis II, who hit his first eight field goal attempts en route to 16 first-half points, UC Irvine quickly closed its early gap. During a first half that featured eight lead changes, Cal Poly secured its 28-27 advantage following a Bennett layup. The Mustangs, however, sank just one more field goal the remainder of the half – another Bennett layup – and trailed 40-30 at the break.
The Mustangs failed to close within single digits of UC Irvine's lead until a Bennett tip-in with four minutes remaining closed Cal Poly's deficit to 57-48. Trailing by 10 points with 30 seconds to play, Cal Poly received a three-pointer by junior forward Joel Awich, but the 63-56 final scoreline was as close as the Mustangs came down the stretch.
Shipley added four assists for Cal Poly, which finished 12-for-16 (75.0 percent) from the free throw line.