ANAHEIM – Sophomore forward Luke Meikle finished with a career 19 points and the Cal Poly men's basketball program sank 13 three-pointers and shot a season best 56.5 percent from three-point range, but the seventh-seeded Mustangs were eliminated from the 2016 Big West Conference Tournament in Thursday's quarterfinal round at the Honda Center by No. 2 UC Irvine, 84-64.
Senior forward Brian Bennett added 10 points in his final appearance as a Mustang as Cal Poly (10-20) trailed by just two at halftime before conceding a 13-5 run to UC Irvine (25-8) to open the second half. Cal Poly's 13 three-pointers marked its second highest single game total of the year, but UC Irvine shot 58.8 (10-for-17) percent itself from beyond the arc.
Also playing his final game for Cal Poly, senior guard David Nwaba grabbed a game high seven rebounds and scored eight points.
With its victory, UC Irvine advanced to face third-seeded Long Beach State in Friday's first semifinal matchup at 6:30 p.m.
During a matchup that featured five lead changes inside the opening eight minutes, Cal Poly – five days after shooting 4-for-28 from the three-point line during its regular season finale at UC Santa Barbara – opened Thursday's quarterfinal 5-for-5 from beyond the arc.
Cal Poly's seventh three-pointer of the first half from freshman forward Josh Martin solidified a 26-22 lead with six-and-half minutes remaining, but UC Irvine compiled an 8-0 run to take its own four-point advantage.
The Mustangs, who shot 69.2 (9-for-13) percent from three-point range in the first half, climbed within a point of UC Irvine's lead three times the remainder of the first half. Trailing by five points with two seconds remaining, however, Meikle's fourth three-pointer cut Cal Poly's halftime deficit to 38-36.
Meikle, who had never previously sank more than two three-pointers in a collegiate game, was 4-for-4 in the first half and 5-for-6 for the game. As a team, 27 of Cal Poly's 36 first-half points came from beyond the arc.
With three-pointers from three different Anteaters, however, UC Irvine opened the second half with a 13-5 run to go up 51-41 with 16 minutes to play.
Nwaba answered with a layup, but the eight-point gap was as close as Cal Poly came the remainder of the evening. UC Irvine junior guard Luke Nelson, who scored 36 points – two shy of the Big West Tournament single game record – responded with one of his six three-pointers to spur a 9-2 run that placed the Anteaters up 60-45 with 12 minutes left.
Thursday's result marked the final game for Cal Poly's four-player senior class.
Forward Joel Awich departs Cal Poly as the third leading shot blocker in program history with 111.
One of only 10 players in program history to score at least 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds, Bennett departs ranked No. 2 in program history with 125 career appearances.
The second leading free throw shooter in Cal Poly history at 86.9 percent, guard Reese Morgan also ranks eighth all-time with 426 three-pointers attempted and ninth with 154 three-pointers made.
One of Cal Poly's top two scorers during each of his three years as a Mustang, Nwaba is one of only 23 players in program history to score at least 1,000 points.