ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Senior guard Victor Joseph scored a team high 20 points and junior forward Kuba Niziol (above) matched a career best with 15 after sinking all five of his three-point attempts as the Cal Poly men's basketball program opened the 40th annual and final edition of the Great Alaska Shootout on Wednesday afternoon with a 73-68 victory versus the College of Charleston inside the Alaska Airlines Center.
Junior guard Donovan Fields added 17 points for Cal Poly (3-2), which moved into the Great Alaska Shootout winner's bracket to face Central Michigan on Friday, Nov. 24 at 6:30 p.m. PT (5:30 p.m. AKST). The winner of that matchup advances to Saturday's championship game at 9 p.m. PT. The loser is relegated to Saturday's third-place matchup at 6:30 p.m.
Cal Poly (2-1), which set a new program record by shooting 100 (11-for-11) percent from the free throw line, also received 10 points from senior forward Luke Meikle.
The Mustangs, facing the College of Charleston (2-2) for the first time in program history, shot 56.0 (24-for-56) percent from the field.
Playing its first game in the state of Alaska after 73 seasons as a four-year program, Cal Poly (2-1) trailed just twice in the second half – by only a single point both times and for a total of 80 seconds. After College of Charleston guard Cameron Johnson knocked down a three-pointer to hand his side a 62-61 lead with two minutes to play, Joseph answered with his third three-pointer of the day to swing the lead back in Cal Poly's favor.
The Cougars then missed a potential game-tying jumper with 78 seconds to play and Joseph sank his fourth and final three-pointer before Fields drained four straight free throw to help place the game out of reach.
To open Wednesday's matchup, each side held the other to a 1-for-7 shooting start from the floor and a 5-5 deadlock after the opening six minutes. Cal Poly's first four shots from the floor were all three-pointers, however, and behind baskets from junior guard Marcellus Garrick, Fields and Niziol, the Mustangs led 14-10 with 11 minutes to play in the first half.
After pushing the lead to 18-13 following a Meikle layup eight minutes before the break, the Mustangs were held scoreless for the ensuing three-and-a-half minutes. Meikle, however, returned with a three-point play and Fields scored Cal Poly's final seven points of half as the Mustangs turned a 21-18 deficit into a 28-27 lead at the break.
Cal Poly couldn't bridge the lead further than five points until Niziol buried three-pointers on four consecutive possessions to stretch the Mustang advantage to 48-41 with 11-and-a-half to play.