HONOLULU, O'ahu – Senior guard Reese Morgan (above) scored a team high 17 points, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program – after nearly overturning a 10-point deficit in the second half – was outscored by 11 points by Hawai'i to close Wednesday's Big West Conference opener as the Mustangs dropped an 86-73 decision inside the Stan Sheriff Center.
Senior guard David Nwaba added 12 points and sophomore guard Taylor Sutlive finished with 11 for Cal Poly (6-8, 0-1), which trailed the Warriors (12-2, 1-0) 66-64 with seven minutes to play before Hawai'i pulled away with a 9-4 run to eventually reestablish its double-digit lead. The Mustangs shot 42.9 (9-for-21) percent from three-point range, 42.4 (25-for-49) percent from the floor and committed just nine turnovers, but Hawai'i shot 55.0 (11-for-20) percent during the second half and – during a matchup that featured 51 fouls –the Warriors sank 34 free throws.
The Mustangs, who had won their last four Big West openers coming into Wednesday's matchup, also received a team high eight rebounds from Nwaba.
Cal Poly, which closed a six-game road trip Wednesday, opens the home portion of its eight-game Big West schedule when hosting Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara inside Mott Athletics Center on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m.
In a matchup of the Big West's highest scoring programs, two Sutlive three-pointers and two Nwaba layups inside the opening five minutes provided Cal Poly an early 14-5 lead.
Three-pointers from Warriors guards Isaac Fleming and Sal Tummala helped comprise a 9-1 run that helped shorten Hawai'i's deficit to 15-14 with 12-and-a-half minutes remaining. The Warriors eventually grabbed a brief lead a 24-23 through a layup from guard Roderick Bobbitt.
The lead changed hands twice more until Hawai'i cobbled together an 11-2 run to post its biggest lead of the opening half at 35-29 three-and-a-half minutes prior to the break.
Morgan stemmed the run with a three-pointer 21 seconds later. Senior forward Brian Bennett then contributed a layup before Morgan knocked down his second three-pointer of the half to place the Mustangs up 37-35 38 seconds before halftime.
Warriors guard Quincy Smith, however, hit a layup at the halftime buzzer to send both programs into the break knotted at 37-37.
Three-pointers on successive possessions from Bobbitt and forward Stefan Jankovic allowed Hawai'i to open a 48-42 lead four minutes into the second half.
Twice Cal Poly cut its deficit to three points but, with the Mustangs trailing 50-47, Hawai'i reeled off an 11-2 run to lead 61-51 with 12 minutes to play.
Still facing a double-digit deficit with nine minutes remaining, Cal Poly received a three-pointer and layup from Morgan on successive possessions. After Hawai'i guard Aaron Valdes sank a layup, the Mustangs responded once more with a layup by sophomore forward Luke Meikle and Sutlive's third three-pointer to pull to a 66-64 gap with seven minutes left.
Hawai'i, however, received two free throws apiece from Bobbitt and Valdes to go up 70-64. A Fleming layup and Valdes three-pointer on the next two possessions then kickstarted Hawai'i's eventual game-winning run.