POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO
HIGH FIVE W/ COACH CALLERO, PART IV (video)
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Junior guard Kyle Odister (right) matched a career high with four three-pointers to finish with a game-leading 14 points Saturday afternoon as the Cal Poly men's basketball program erased an 11-point deficit early in the second half to open Big West Conference play with a 58-48 victory against UC Riverside inside the Student Recreation Center.
Freshman guard Reese Morgan equaled a career high with nine points and added a collegiate-best eight rebounds for Cal Poly (5-6, 1-0), which trailed UC Riverside (3-10, 0-1) 39-28 with 15 minutes to play before outscoring the Highlanders 30-9 the remainder of the day. Cal Poly, which entered play ranked No. 2 among 345 Division I programs in turnovers per game (9.3), committed just nine on Saturday and held UC Riverside to a 38.0 (19-for-50) percent mark from the floor and 15.8 (3-for-19) percent figure from the three-point line.
Overall, Saturday's victory marked fourth-year head coach Joe Callero's 50th victory at the helm of Cal Poly.
UC Riverside, which has defeated just one Division I opponent this season, opened up a brief 14-8 lead after six-and-a-half minutes before Cal Poly reclaimed an early advantage with an 8-0 run that was spurred by two Odister three-pointers. Trailing 16-14, however, the Highlanders held Cal Poly to a solitary field goal during a nine-and-a-half minute span to lead by as much as 29-21 late in the first half. Odister, who led Cal Poly with eight first-half points, landed a layup with 40 seconds remaining in the first half and the Mustangs – held to a 36.0 (9-for-25) percent field goal mark during the opening 20 minutes – trailed by six points at the break.
Mustang freshman forward Brian Bennett converted two quick layups to open the second half, but UC Riverside scored on four successive possessions early during the period to eventually extend its lead to a 39-28 margin with 15 minutes to play.
Spurred by three-pointers from Morgan and Odister, however, Cal Poly began its comeback. Continuing to shave their largest deficit of the afternoon, the Mustangs received a layup from guard Drake U'u and a free throw from fellow senior Chris O'Brien to close to within a point of the Highlander lead at 39-38 with 10 minutes to play. U'u followed with two free throws on the ensuing possession to put Cal Poly in the lead before Odister nailed another three-pointer to extend what would be a 16-0 Mustang run.
Held scoreless for nearly eight minutes, the Highlanders clawed to within three points of the Mustang lead three times down the stretch – the last deficit occurring at a 51-48 margin with four-and-a-half minutes to play. Cal Poly, however, held UC Riverside scoreless the rest of way and sank five of six free throw attempts to ice victory.
Cal Poly, which won its Big West opener for the first time in three seasons, returns to the central coast to host Long Beach State on Thursday, Jan. 3 and UC Irvine on Saturday, Jan. 5. Both games tip at 7 p.m. inside Mott Gym for Cal Poly, which finished 6-2 against Big West opposition at home last season.