POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO | DRAKE U'U | CHRIS EVERSLEY
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Sophomore guard Jamal Johnson scored a layup with 37 seconds to play, snapping a 73-73 tie and lifting Cal Poly to a 77-74 Big West Conference men's basketball victory over UC Irvine on Saturday night before 2,753 inside Mott Gym.
Senior center Will Donahue triggered the play with a steal at midcourt, fed the ball to a streaking Johnson (pictured at right) and he made the layup to give Cal Poly the lead for good.
Junior center Adam Folker made one of two free throws with 20 seconds to go for UC Irvine, but Donahue's two free throws with 15 seconds to play gave Cal Poly a 77-74 cushion. UC Irvine junior guard Derick Flowers missed a three-pointer with four seconds to go and the clock ran out as several players scrambled for the rebound in the key.
Cal Poly remains in fourth place in the Big West at 6-6, tied with Pacific, and sports a 15-11 overall mark. UC Irvine fell to 9-16 and 5-7.
Sophomore forward Chris Eversley led Cal Poly offensively with 18 points, sinking six of eight floor shots and all five free throws. Senior forward David Hanson added 15 points and junior guard Drake U'u came off the bench to contribute 10 points.
UC Irvine was paced by junior forward Michael Wilder with 21 points as he made five of eight three-pointers. Folker added 20 points and eight rebounds while junior guard Daman Starring scored 12 points. Flowers notched nine assists.
With 17-4 and 14-4 runs, Cal Poly built a 41-19 advantage with 3:36 to play in the first half -- not committing a turnover in the first nine minutes of the game -- and settled for a 45-32 lead at the break as the Anteaters outscored the Mustangs 13-4 in the final 3 1/2 minutes.
UC Irvine continued its run in the second half, opening with another 13-4 run and eventually catching Cal Poly at 70-70 with 3:56 to play on a layup by Folker, capping a 12-4 Anteater run.
A bucket by U'u with 3:30 to go and a free throw by U'u with 2:45 to play gave Cal Poly a 73-70 lead but UC Irvine answered with one free throw by Starring and a layup by Folker to tie the game at 73-73 with 1:33 to go, setting the stage for Donahue's steal and Johnson's layup for the go-ahead points.
Cal Poly outrebounded UC Irvine 30-28, led by Eversley with five. The Anteaters turned the ball over 12 times, two more than the Mustangs.
Cal Poly made 45.5 percent of its floor shots, including 11 of 23 from three-point range, while UC Irvine was 28 of 54 from the floor (51.9 percent), sinking eight of 17 three-pointers.
Cal Poly made 16 of 17 free throws to break the school record for free throw percentage in a game (94.1 percent). Old mark of 93.8 percent was set against Chapman in the 1988-89 season.
Eversley has scored in double figures in eight of his last 11 games.
The Mustangs, who never trailed in the game, beat UC Irvine at home for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
Cal Poly plays its next three games on the road, beginning Wednesday night at Cal State Northridge. The Mustangs also visit Northern Colorado for an ESPNU BracketBuster game Saturday night and next week play at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 25.