POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO | REESE MORGAN | DAVID NWABA
FRESNO – Junior guard Reese Morgan (right) scored a season-high 15 points and junior wing David Nwaba added 15 more as the Cal Poly men's basketball team nearly closed a 10-point deficit with two minutes to play at Fresno State on Saturday evening before falling inside the Save Mart Center, 63-57.
Junior forward Brian Bennett added eight points and a game-high eight rebounds for Cal Poly (3-4), which trailed 60-50 with two minutes to play. The Mustangs then received a layup from Bennett and, after twice forcing Fresno State (4-7) into turnovers, layups from junior wing Joel Awich and Morgan to close the gap to four points with 43 seconds to play.
Having to foul to regain possession, Cal Poly placed Bulldog sophomore forward Karachi Edo on the free throw line. Edo sank one of two attempts, but Cal Poly twice missed short-range jumpers on the opposite end in falling down the stretch.
Cal Poly, which began a seven-game road trip Saturday – the program's lengthiest in 35 seasons – shot just 29.8 (17-for-57) percent from the floor, but outrebounded the Bulldogs 37-32 and limited Fresno State to just five offensive rebounds.
The Mustangs, who opened the day leading all 345 Division I programs in fewest turnovers committed per game, turned the ball over nine times Saturday to see their per-game average upped to 6.4 per contest.
Cal Poly continues its road trip with a 7 p.m. matchup at San Francisco on Monday, Dec. 15.
Held to a 1-for-6 start from the floor, Cal Poly – following three early layups by Edo – found itself trailing 9-2 after four minutes.
The Mustangs, however, hit back with a three-point play by Nwaba and a three-pointer by junior guard Kyle Toth capping a 10-2 run that put the Mustangs up 12-11 10 minutes before the break.
A three-pointer seconds later by junior guard Marvelle Harris placed Fresno State back in front, but it was the only field goal allowed by Cal Poly during a seven-minute span as the Mustangs – through nine first-half points by Nwaba and just one offensive rebound by the Bulldogs over the opening 23 minutes – scratched out a 19-15 lead.
The Bulldogs eventually honed their offense, compiling a 12-0 run late in the opening half. Coupled with a 16-5 run during the first half's final seven-and-half minutes, Fresno State took a 31-24 lead into the break.
Trailing 37-30 early in the second half, Cal Poly received three successive Nwaba free throws. However, Fresno State reeled off a 6-0 run in less than two minutes to secure the game's first double-digit lead.
Through a putback by freshman forward Aleks Abrams and a Morgan three-pointer, the Mustangs eventually climbed back to a 47-43 deficit with nine-and-a-half minutes to play. The Bulldogs, however, responded once more with one of sophomore guard Paul Watson's six three-pointers and two more free throws to keep the Mustangs at bay until Cal Poly began its comeback over the final two minutes.