POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO
RENO, Nev. – Senior guard Dylan Royer (right) scored a team-leading 13 points and freshman forward Brian Bennett added 10, but Nevada sank eight first-half three-pointers on Tuesday evening at the Lawlor Events Center as the Cal Poly men's basketball program, despite a late rally, dropped a 69-56 decision against the Wolf Pack.
Junior guard Jamal Johnson added a game-high five assists for Cal Poly (3-4), but the Mustangs shot 32.8 (22-for-67) percent from the floor and failed to lead at any point for the second time in three games. Cal Poly, ranked first among 345 Division I programs with just 8.6 turnovers committed per game, turned the ball over just nine times while harrying Nevada (6-4) into 19 miscues.
Senior guard Malik Story notched five of Nevada's opening seven points to help fuel an 11-4 run by the Wolf Pack during the game's opening five minutes. Spurred by three-pointers from senior guard Drake U'u, junior forward Chris Eversley and junior guard Kyle Odister, the Mustangs hit back with a 9-4 run to deadlock the game at 15-15 10 minutes before the break.
However, Story – who finished with 17 first-half points – kept the Mustangs at bay with four three-pointers during a six-minute span to reaffirm Nevada's lead at 31-19 four minutes prior to halftime. At the other end of the court, the Wolf Pack contained Cal Poly to just a pair of Bennett layups during the seven-minute span after the Mustangs had tied the matchup. Further three-pointers from junior forward Kevin Panzer, junior guard Jerry Evans Jr. and freshman forward Cole Huff to close the first half helped Nevada to a 40-25 lead at intermission.
The Mustangs sank just two of their opening 14 attempts from the floor to start the second half as the Wolf Pack quickly opened up a 54-30 lead with 13-and-a-half minutes to play. Three free throws from Mustang freshman forward Zach Gordon and a Royer three-pointer stemmed an 8-0 Nevada run to cut Cal Poly deficit to 54-36 at the 10-minute mark. Wolf Pack junior guard Jordan Burriss – who finished with 13 points – knocked down a three-pointer, however, to keep Cal Poly at bay.
Still trailing 64-46 with two minutes, 47 seconds to play, the Mustangs launched one final assault on the Nevada lead. Bennett and Royer converted layups and freshman forward Joel Awich added three points to cut the deficit 64-53 with one-and-a-half minutes remaining. The Mustangs though received just a Royer three-pointer down the stretch as Nevada rounded off the victory.
Outrebounded 12-1 during the opening 11 minutes of the second half, Cal Poly finished with 31 boards to Nevada's 47.
Cal Poly senior guard Chris O'Brien, ranked first among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 20-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, racked up two assists against zero turnovers to retain his national lead. O'Brien has not committed a turnover in six successive games.
Cal Poly returns to Mott Gym to host Division II Eastern New Mexico on Friday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.