POSTGAME REACTION: JOE CALLERO
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Junior guard Dylan Royer sank four three-pointers to finish with a team-leading 14 points, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program trailed for the entirety of Saturday evening's nationally-televised ESPNU matchup against central coast rival UC Santa Barbara before suffering a 68-60 defeat inside the Thunderdome.
Senior forward David Hanson added 13 points and senior forward Will Taylor totaled 11 and a game-high nine rebounds for Cal Poly (15-14, 6-8), which spent a majority of the second half attempting to overturn a double-digit disadvantage. Seeking their first victory inside the Thunderdome in five years and just the program's third triumph at UC Santa Barbara in 18 Division I seasons, the Mustangs instead allowed a 50.0 (23-for-46) percent field goal mark to UC Santa Barbara (16-9, 10-4) and slipped to their first three-game losing slide of the year.
With the loss, Cal Poly fell into a three-way knot for fourth place in the Big West Conference standings with Pacific (11-16, 6-8) and UC Irvine (11-17, 6-8). UC Riverside (13-16, 6-9) lurks just a half game back in seventh. Cal Poly closes the regular season by hosting UC Davis on Thursday, March 1 and Pacific on Saturday, March 3. Both games tip at 7 p.m. in Mott Gym.
On Saturday, the Mustangs stayed within touching distance early courtesy of successive three-pointers from Royer, the Big West's leader with a 46.4 (64-for-138) percent mark from the arc. Trailing 16-15, however, the Mustangs yielded a 16-1 run during a six-minute stretch as UC Santa Barbara powered to a 32-16 lead midway through the opening half.
Hanson kickstarted the riposte as his layup with seven-and-a-half minutes remaining in the half sparked a 10-0 Mustang run that brought Cal Poly to within six points of UC Santa Barbara's lead four minutes before intermission. The Mustangs again sliced their deficit to six points a minute later following a Hanson putback, but the Gauchos – who shot 58.3 (14-for-24) percent from the floor during the first half – were able to reaffirm a 40-31 gap at the break.
The Mustangs closed to within seven points of UC Santa Barbara's lead on four occasions early during the second half. However, after a Hanson three-pointer allowed Cal Poly to reach a 49-42 deficit, the Gauchos held Cal Poly without a field goal during a three-minute span and grabbed a 57-42 lead with 11-and-a-half minutes to play.
Cal Poly closed to within eight points just once before the final buzzer.