GREELEY, Colo. – Senior forward Joel Awich matched a career high with 19 points as the Cal Poly men's basketball program opened the 2015 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Regional Round at Northern Colorado's Bank of Colorado Arena on Saturday afternoon with a 73-64 victory versus Austin Peay.
Senior guard David Nwaba added 16 points for Cal Poly (2-2), which shot 48.3 (14-for-29) percent during the second half and held Austin Peay without a field goal for the final five minutes, 55 seconds of action.
With Saturday's victory, Cal Poly advanced to Sunday's Maui Invitational Regional Round championship game against UMBC on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 11 a.m. PT. UMBC topped Northern Colorado in Saturday's second game, 81-72.
Facing the Governors for the first and only time since falling in 82-68 on Dec. 19, 1977 in Clarksville, Tenn., Cal Poly also received 10 points from freshman guard Jaylen Shead while Awich and Nwaba co-led the Mustangs with six rebounds apiece.
With its 73-point performance, Cal Poly – which forced Austin Peay into 16 turnovers – has scored 70-plus points in all four games this season.
In holding Austin Peay to a 3-for-11 start from the floor, Cal Poly led 16-9 after eight minutes of action. Still employing a 20-14 lead with nine-and-a-half minutes remaining, however, Cal Poly conceded an 8-2 run as the Governors tied the game at 22-22.
Austin Peay knotted the scoreline once more before a tip-in by Governors forward Chris Horton – two of his 20 first-half points – handed the Governors a 28-26 lead four-a-half minutes before the break.
The lead changed hands five more times the remainder of the half before an Awich three-pointer three seconds prior to the break provided the Mustangs a 34-32 lead at half.
Picking up where he left off, Awich opened the second half with a layup and three-pointer inside the opening minute. Junior forward Zach Gordon then added dunks on successive possessions while an Nwaba free throw and jumper by senior forward Brian Bennett provided Cal Poly a 46-39 lead.
The Mustangs then kept Austin Peay to just four points during a four-minute span as two Nwaba layups and another Gordon dunk furthered Cal Poly's lead to 52-43 with 12 minutes remaining.
With Austin Peay facing its largest deficit of the afternoon, Robinson scored seven consecutive points to draw his side to a 54-50 deficit.
Mustang senior guard Reese Morgan, however, stemmed Robinson's run with a three-pointer. The Governors made one final push against Cal Poly's lead with the second of two Horton free throws trimming the Mustang advantage to 64-61 with four-and-a-half minutes to play.
The Mustangs responded with a jumper from Awich and, leading 68-64 with 71 seconds to play, Cal Poly received a Morgan free throw and two by Shead down the stretch to cement the victory.
Cal Poly closed the game's final five minutes by holding Austin Peay to a 0-for-5 shooting performance.