Cal Poly Falls Late in Big West Tournament Semifinal
POSTGAME VIDEO: CAL POLY PRESS CONFERENCE
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Senior forward David Hanson recorded a team-high 19 points during the final game of his prolific Mustang career, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program's run at the 2012 Big West Conference Tournament came to a close on Friday evening as the Mustangs fell at the semifinal hurdle against No. 3 UC Santa Barbara, 64-52, inside the Honda Center.
Senior point guard Amaurys Fermin added 11 points for Cal Poly (18-15), which, in its first semifinal appearance in five years, led UC Santa Barbara (20-9) with nine minutes to play before being outscored, 18-5, the remainder of the night. With its victory, UC Barbara advanced to face top-seeded Long Beach State (24-8) during Saturday's 7 p.m. championship matchup. Long Beach State prevailed against No. 7 UC Irvine (12-19) during Friday's earlier semifinal, 68-57
Hanson, who finished his four-year career ranked first in Cal Poly program history in appearances (122), seventh in rebounds (628) and eighth in scoring (1,267), added a team-high six rebounds for the Mustangs, whose 18 victories during the 2011-12 campaign ranked as the second-highest total in 18 Division I seasons and as the loftiest amount since the 2006-07 squad – Cal Poly's last side to make a Big West Tournament final – won 19.
Cal Poly opened Friday's showdown by holding UC Santa Barbara to a 3-for-14 start from the floor (with all three field goals coming from Gaucho senior forward Jaime Serna) and the Mustangs grabbed their first lead of the night at 10-8 through a layup from Hanson eight minutes into action. Hanson followed with a three-pointer moments later before sophomore guard Jamal Johnson sank two free throws to cap an 8-0 Mustang run that ran Cal Poly's lead to 15-8 nine minutes before the break.
The Mustangs led by as much as 23-15 through a second Hanson three-pointer, but UC Santa Barbara responded to its largest deficit of the night with an 11-2 run that was backboned by successive three-pointers from senior forward Orlando Johnson – both of which came from an identical spot a shade off the right wing.
Trailing, 26-25, with four minutes remaining in the half, the Mustangs utilized a free throw from senior center Will Donahue, a three-pointer from Fermin and a turnaround jumper from Hanson to reclaim a 31-28 lead with two minutes left. Nunnally, however, forced his way to the rim for a field goal a minute later and Johnson produced a similar feat on the sound of the halftime buzzer to provide the Gauchos a 32-31 lead at the break.
UC Santa Barbara twice opened five-point leads early during the second half, but each time found itself reeled back in by the Mustangs. Trailing, 44-39, Cal Poly limited UC Santa Barbara to one field goal during a seven-minute span, producing an 8-2 run to go up, 47-46, with nine minutes to play.
The Mustang lead was brief, however, with Johnson sinking two free throws 90 seconds later. Johnson again worked his way to the rim and finished off a three-point play with a shade over four minutes remaining to bolster UC Santa Barbara's advantage to 53-49.
Cal Poly missed its next three three-point attempts until Hanson broke the string from the arc to bring the Mustangs within six points of UC Santa Barbara's lead with 70 seconds to play. The Mustangs, however, missed their ensuing three three-pointers as the Gauchos pulled away late.