DAVIS – Junior forward Brian Bennett (right) scored a career-high 27 points and senior guard Maliik Love added a season-best 15, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program saw a three-point attempt hit the back of the rim as time expired in overtime Saturday evening as the Mustangs fell to Big West Conference co-leader UC Davis inside The Pavilion, 81-78.
Sophomore guard Ridge Shipley added 11 points and junior forward Joel Awich scored 10 for Cal Poly (10-10, 3-5), which led for the final 33 minutes of regulation and 65-62 with 50 seconds remaining before UC Davis senior guard Josh Ritchart sank a three-pointer to tie the game. Cal Poly had two three-point attempt opportunities to win the game, the second of which came from Awich and was errant at the regulation buzzer.
The teams traded the lead on four occasions in overtime before a three-pointer by Aggie senior guard Avery Johnson provided UC Davis a 72-71 lead with three minutes remaining, With Cal Poly still facing a 79-76 deficit and five seconds to play, Shipley was fouled attempting a three-pointer from the right corner. He missed his first free throw, sank the next two to bring Cal Poly within a point of the Aggies and the Mustangs were forced to foul Johnson with two seconds to play.
On the game's final sequence, Johnson hit both free throw attempts and on the inbounds, Cal Poly pushed the ball to junior wing David Nwaba. Nwaba, who finished with nine points, bounced a three-point attempt off the back iron from inside the half-court line.
Cal Poly shot 49.2 (30-for-61) percent from the floor – its second highest mark of the season – but conceded a 50.0 (29-for-58) percent mark to the Aggies. UC Davis also shot 55.0 (11-for-20) percent from three-point range.
Bennett's 27 points were the most by a Mustang since former All-Big West selection Chris Eversley recorded 30 against CSUN on Jan. 26, 2013.
With the loss, Cal Poly slipped to seventh place in the Big West standings, but a half-game behind Hawai'i (3-4, 15-8), UC Santa Barbara (3-4, 10-11) and UC Riverside (3-4, 10-11). UC Davis (16-4, 6-1) retained its share of first place alongside UC Irvine (13-8, 6-1) and Long Beach State (12-11, 6-1).
Cal Poly returns home to open its lengthiest stint inside Mott Athletics Center this season – a three-game stand – when facing Hawai'i on Thursday, Feb. 5. Tip time is 7 p.m.
Courtesy of successive three-pointers from senior guard Corey Hawkins and Ritchart, UC Davis leapt out to a 6-0 lead after just 90 seconds. Bennett, however, helped the Mustangs hit back by scoring Cal Poly's first eight points of the game. Cal Poly then added a three-pointer and three free throws by senior wing Michael Bolden and an Awich dunk to build a 16-9 lead 12 minutes before the break.
The Aggies quickly closed Cal Poly's lead to two points, but another jumper from Bennett – his fifth in his first five attempts – and a three-pointer by Love furthered the Mustang advantage to 22-14.
Still leading by eight points eight minutes before the break, the Mustangs – who shot a season-best 59.3 (16-for-27) percent in the first half – reeled off a 13-7 run to lead by as much as 38-24 with two minutes remaining. Cal Poly, which received 16 first-half points from Bennett, eventually led 40-30 at halftime.
The Aggies, however, began the second half from the three-point line as they did the first half with Hawkins, Johnson and Ritchart hitting on three successive possessions to draw UC Davis to a 45-43 deficit with 16 minutes to play.
With another Hawkins three-pointer – his third of the evening – the Aggies eventually drew within one point of Cal Poly at 52-51 with 12 minutes to go.
And that was as close as Cal Poly allowed UC Davis to climb until Ritchart's three-pointer to tie the game at 65-65.