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Dramatic Comeback Sends Cal Poly Past UC Riverside, 68-62

Dramatic Comeback Sends Cal Poly Past UC Riverside, 68-62

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Senior forward Chris Eversley (right) scored a game-high 19 points and freshman guard Reese Morgan added 16 off the bench as the Cal Poly men's basketball program overturned a 17-point deficit against UC Riverside to post a 68-62 triumph inside the Mott Athletics Center on Thursday evening.

Freshman forward Brian Bennett added 10 points for the Mustangs (16-12, 11-6), who trailed UC Riverside (6-24, 3-14) 48-31 with 16 minutes to play before outscoring the Highlanders 37-14 the remainder of the night. Cal Poly, which allowed UC Riverside to shoot 69.2 (18-for-26) percent from the floor during the first half before holding the Highlanders to a 28.0 (7-for-25) percent clip during the second, conceded just three field goals during the final eight minutes.

Thursday's win allowed Cal Poly to establish a new program record for single season Big West victories, topping both the 2002-03 and 2010-11 Mustang squads. The win was also Cal Poly's 13th successive home triumph against Big West opposition and fourth-year head coach Joe Callero's 200th career victory.

With the victory, Cal Poly cemented sole possession of third place in the Big West Conference standings after UC Irvine (17-14, 10-7) – which entered Thursday's action deadlocked with Cal Poly – dropped a 70-62 decision at second-place Pacific (12-5, 18-12). Cal Poly can solidify no worse than the No. 3 seed for the March 14-16 Big West Tournament by defeating Cal State Fullerton in Saturday's 7 p.m. regular season finale. Cal Poly can claim the No. 2 seed for the tournament by defeating Cal State Fullerton and having Big West-leading Long Beach State (14-3, 18-11) defeat Pacific.

A victory against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday will also help Cal Poly solidify program records for single season Big West winning percentage and single season home victories and home winning percentage at the Division I level. Cal Poly improved to 12-1 inside the Mott Athletics Center this year with Thursday's win.

Leading 40-26 at halftime, UC Riverside forced Cal Poly into three quick turnovers and grabbed their largest lead of the night on a Robert Smith three-pointer with 16 minutes to play. Cal Poly, however, held UC Riverside to just a single field goal during the next three-and-a-half minutes to trim the deficit to single digits.

As part of a larger 19-3 run that included three three-pointers from Morgan, Cal Poly needed just six minutes to come within a point of the UC Riverside lead at 51-50 with 10 minutes to play. The second of Eversley's two three-pointers handed Cal Poly the lead a minute later and the Mustangs failed to trail by more than four points the remainder of the night.

The Mustangs finally took the lead for certain at 59-58 on an Eversley layup with five minutes remaining. Still retaining just a 61-60 lead with with three minutes to go, it was a three-pointer from senior guard Drake U'u that finally outdistanced UC Riverside.

After missing successive three-pointers with less than a minute to play, UC Riverside then watched freshman forward Taylor Johns brick two free throws with 36 seconds left.

At the other end of the Mott Athletics Center, Morgan iced four straight free throws to seal Cal Poly's fourth consecutive home victory against UC Riverside.

U'u matched a career high with eight rebounds.