FULLERTON – Senior guard Reese Morgan scored a team high 17 points and senior forward Brian Bennett (above) became the 22nd player in program history to reach 1,000 career points as the Cal Poly men's basketball team produced an 83-75 victory versus Cal State Fullerton inside Titan Gym Saturday afternoon.
Senior guard David Nwaba and sophomore forward Luke Meikle each scored 13 points while junior guard Ridge Shipley added 12 for Cal Poly (8-10, 2-3), which committed just two turnovers – the fewest in 207 games under seventh-year head coach Joe Callero. Bennett finished with eight points for the Mustangs, who shot 40.7 (22-for-54) percent from the floor, but knocked down 29 of 38 free throws (76.3 percent) – including 24 during the second half.
Bennett required just six points entering play Saturday to reach the 1,000-point plateau and did so with his third basket of the game five minutes prior to halftime. Bennett became the first Mustang since forward Chris Eversley (2010-14) on Jan. 30, 2014 to reach 1,000 career points. Bennett also grabbed three rebounds to increase his career total to 516 and move into 10th place in program history alongside guard Shaun Lewis (2007-11).
Cal Poly returns home to Mott Athletics Center to host UC Riverside on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.
During a matchup in which no side led by more than four points for the opening 17 minutes, a three-pointer from senior forward Joel Awich provided the Mustangs a brief 33-28 cushion two minutes before the break.
The Titans, however, immediately squared matters for the sixth time during the first half with a layup and three-pointer from guard Ahmad Khalil.
Nwaba followed with two free throws and a layup during the half's final minute, but two free throws by Cal State Fullerton forward Malcolm Henderson trimmed Cal Poly's halftime lead to 37-35.
Into the second half, the Mustangs twice extended their lead to four points before successive three-pointers by Shipley and sophomore guard Taylor Sutlive increased Cal Poly's advantage to 49-41 with 14 minutes remaining.
The Mustangs, who limited the Titans to just one field goal during the opening six-and-a-half minutes of the second half, shot 6-for-10 themselves out of the break with the third of Shipley's three three-pointers putting Cal Poly up 53-43 with 13 minutes to play.
Twice the Titans moved within five points of Cal Poly before Cal State Fullerton kept Cal Poly without a field goal for four-and-a-half minutes and four consecutive free throws by guard Tre' Coggins cut the host's deficit to 60-58.
Morgan, however, knocked down a three-pointer on the next possession and, a minute later, kept Cal Poly's lead at five points with a pair of free throws.
In the next two minutes, Nwaba converted two free throw attempts and a layup against the shot clock buzzer to place Cal Poly in front 70-63 with three minutes to play.