Junior wing Mark Crowe scored a team leading 16 points and graduate guard Jamal Smith added 12 in his final collegiate game, but the Cal Poly men’s basketball program saw its year come to a close and was eliminated from Big West Conference Tournament contention after UC Santa Barbara guard Jaquori McLaughlin sank a jumper at the buzzer to hand the Gauchos a 69-67 win inside the Thunderdome in the regular season finale for both clubs Saturday evening.
Graduate guard Malek Harwell finished with 11 points in his final college game while sophomore guard Junior Ballard posted his 22nd double-digit scoring game with 10 points for Cal Poly (7-23, 4-12 Big West), which took a 67-61 lead with three-and-a-half minutes to play following a jumper from sophomore forward Tuukka Jaakkola. UC Santa Barbara, however, received two free throws and a layup from forward Amadou Sow in the ensuing two minutes to cut Cal Poly’s lead to two.
Gaucho forward Sekou Touré then knocked down a layup with 78 seconds remaining to tie the game.
Smith missed a three-pointer on Cal Poly’s ensuing possession, but the Mustangs forced a Gaucho turnover at the other end of the Thunderdome. In transition, Smith was fouled with 31 seconds remaining attempting a layup. He missed the front end of a one-and-one situation and UC Santa Barbara ran down the shot clock before McLaughlin’s jumper in the lane bounced off the right side of the rim and through the net.
Cal Poly shot 50.0 (25-for-50) percent from the floor and 43.5 (10-for-23) percent from three-point range.
Heading into Saturday’s finale, Cal Poly required a win against the Gauchos coupled with a Cal State Fullerton loss at Long Beach State to have a chance at claiming the No. 8 seed for the March 12-14 Big West Tournament.
Also playing his final collegiate game, Mustang senior guard Job Alexander finished with six points.
With Gauchos guard Brandon Cyrus scoring UC Santa Barbara’s opening seven points, the hosts jumped out to a 7-4 advantage after three-and-a-half minutes. Cal Poly, however, answered with an 11-0 run, holding the Gauchos scoreless for another three-and-a-half-minute stretch to take a 15-7 lead with 13 minutes to play in the opening half.
Cyrus quenched UC Santa Barbara’s drought with a jumper, but Ballard countered with a three-pointer as the Mustangs doubled up the Gauchos at 18-9 midway through the half.
With Cal Poly still leading, 23-16, at the five-minute mark, UC Santa Barbara received two layups from forward Robinson Idehen either side of a Touré jumper to trim the Mustang lead to one point.
Cal Poly, however, closed the opening half with a 12-4 run to take a 35-26 lead into the break.
With Crowe and Smith each sinking a pair of three-pointers inside the opening seven minutes, Cal Poly stretched its advantage to 56-43 with 11 minutes to play.
Cal Poly still led with seven-and-a-half minutes to play, 63-54, before being outscored to close the matchup, 15-4.
-Provided by Cal Poly