Mar 8, 2013 2:07 AM by Andrew Masuda
Reese Morgan's hot shooting helped Cal Poly erase a 17 point second half deficit to come-from-behind to beat UC Riverside 68-62 in front of 2,265 fans at the Mott Athletics Center on Thursday night.
The Mustangs won their fourth in a row overall and extended their streak to 13-straight Big West Conference home victories. Cal Poly improved to 11-6 in Big West play and set a program record for most conference wins in a single season. They are now 16-12 overall and delivered head coach Joe Callero his 200th career victory.
"We didn't come out as strong as we could have and they took advantage of that. But it's a testament to our team that we can go in at halftime and make adjustments and come out and play hard and come back," said Morgan after he scored all 16 of his points in the second half.
"It just shows resiliency. We never really got discouraged. We just kept fighting and stuck with the game plan and were able to push over that hump and finally comeback to win," added Drake U'u , who finished with 6 points and 8 rebounds and made several key defensive plays.
Cal Poly fell behind early in the first half and trailed 40-24 at halftime. UC Riverside shot 69 percent in the first half on 18 for 26 shooting. Cal Poly shot a respectable 11 for 26, a 42 percent mark, in the first half behind 8 points from Brian Bennett . The Highlanders' Chris Patton scored 14 points in the first half for UCR.
UC Riverside led by as many as 17 points (50-33) with 15:51 to go in the second half after Robert Smith hit a 3-pointer. That's when coach Joe Callero went with a smaller, quicker lineup that included Morgan. The redshirt freshman came off the bench to go 4 for 4 from 3-point range and scored all 16 of his points in the second half. His third triple made it a 51-50 game with 10 minutes to play. Chris Eversley later his a three-pointer from the corner to give Cal Poly its first lead since two minutes into the game at 53-52 with 8:52 to play.
The Highlanders went back up by four until Morgan's hit from downtown again to make it a 58-57 deficit with 6:53 to play. Eversley scored a layup on an assist from Dylan Royer to give Cal poly the lead again 59-58 with less than five minutes to go. Chris O'Brien drove inside and scored to make it 61-58 Mustangs with 3:28 to go. The Highlanders scored a layup to climb to within one 61-60. That's when Drake U'u drained a huge three pointer with 2:18 to go to give Cal Poly its biggest lead of the game 64-60. Cal Poly clinched it at the free throw line to pull off the epic comeback.
Eversley led the Mustangs with 18 points and Bennett added 10 points. Cal Poly's defense limited the Highlanders to just 22 points in the second half and 28 percent shooting.
The Mustangs finished 26 for 52 from the floor, a 50 percent clip, on the night. They made 8 of their 13 three-point shots or 62 percent.
The Mustangs are in sole possession of third place in the standings after UC Irvine lost at second place Pacific. The Mustangs can claim no worse than the third seed in next week's Big West Tournament by defeating Cal State Fullerton in their regular season finale on Saturday at 7pm. Cal Poly can get the second seed with a win on Saturday and have Big West leading Long Beach State defeat Pacific.
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