CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Five Mustangs finished in double digit scoring figures led by sophomore guard Taylor Sutlive's team high 12 points, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program – after trailing by 10 points with seven minutes remaining and leading by two with three to play – fell to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi inside the American Bank Center on Sunday afternoon, 80-74.
Seniors Brian Bennett, David Nwaba and Reese Morgan and junior Ridge Shipley each finished with 11 points for Cal Poly (5-6), which utilized two Morgan free throws to take a 71-69 lead with three minutes, 10 seconds to play. The Mustangs, however, received just the third of Morgan three three-pointers down the stretch in defeat.
In the first meeting between the two programs since Jan. 9, 2001 and during just the third all-time matchup, Cal Poly overturned a nine-point halftime deficit by holding the Islanders (8-3) to just a 34 .8 (8-for-23) percent field goal mark during the second half. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, however, shot 85.3 (29-for-34) percent from the free throw line and received 48 of its 80 points from bench scorers.
Now halfway through a six-game road trip, Cal Poly continues action on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at UTSA. Tip time inside the Convocation Center in San Antonio is 5 p.m. PT. The Mustangs then visit No. 24 Texas A&M on Tuesday, Dec. 29.
Two Sutlive three-pointers inside the opening five minutes propelled Cal Poly early, but the Mustangs connected on just four of their first 11 shot attempts and trailed 19-13 midway through the opening half.
Bennett responded for the Mustangs with a jumper to trim Cal Poly's disadvantage to four points, but the Islanders – through eight points from forward Bryce Douvier – produced an 11-2 run to go up 30-17 seven minutes before the break.
Sutlive added his fourth three-pointer of the opening half down the stretch, but Texas A&M-Corpus Christi – which shot 57.7 (15-for-26) percent during the first half – led 41-32 at halftime.
Held to a 37.9 (11-for-29) percent field goal mark itself during the first half, Cal Poly opened the second with three-point plays from Shipley and Nwaba as part of an 11-0, two-minute run that lifted the Mustangs to an immediate 43-41 advantage.
Cal Poly limited the Islanders to 1-for-9 shooting to open the second half, but the Islanders kept pace by sinking 11 of their first 12 free throw attempts of the half.
Neither side led by more than five points until a pair of free throws by Islanders guard Ehab Amin placed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in front 61-54 with 10 minutes remaining. A three-point play by guard Hameed Ali three minutes later furthered the Islander lead to 68-58.
Facing its largest deficit of the second half, Cal Poly received three-pointers from Shipley and Morgan on successive possessions to draw within four points. An Ali free throw briefly delayed Cal Poly's charge back as Bennett dropped a layup and Morgan hit his second three-pointer of the day to draw Cal Poly level at 69-69.
Photo courtesy of Kim Sutlive