Late Game Heroics Push ‘Eaters against Cal Poly
After suffering their first conference loss of the season, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team bounced back on the road to defeat Cal Poly, 78-72, in overtime Wednesday night.
Junior center Mamadou Ndiaye shined for the ‘Eaters as he tied his career high of 21 points and notched eight blocks to protect the paint against the Mustangs (8-13, 2-6). Junior guard Luke Nelson, also with 21 points, had a memorable night reaching 1000 career points and 300 career assists in Wednesday night’s win over Cal Poly. The victory pushes the ‘Eaters to 18-6 overall and 7-1 in Big West play.
The ‘Eaters struggled to take care of the ball in the contest, giving up 17 turnovers for 16 points in favor of the Mustangs. It was their defense once again that helped push the ‘Eaters in the second half as they held the Mustangs shooting 37 percent from the floor and 19 percent from beyond the arc.
Both teams were able to come back down double digits in the contest as both teams had leads of 11. The ‘Eaters were first to overcome a deficit as they found themselves down 20-9 in the first half only to have a surge and gain a one point advantage heading into the second period of play. It was in the second half where Cal Poly came back, against an ‘Eater 12-2 run, to go as much as to take the lead in the closing minute of play.
Down three with four seconds left in regulation, the ‘Eaters ran a perfectly drawn up play that saw senior Dominique Dunning heave an inbounds pass, from the far end of the court, to a positioned Ndiaye in the paint that quickly turned and found junior Jaron Martin open for a three point shot to force overtime.
A neck and neck overtime was won by the ‘Eaters with Ndiaye guarding the rim, garnering half of his blocks in the period, and closing the game on free throws. The ‘Eaters were able to ice the game as they hit nine of their ten free throw shots in overtime to edge the Mustangs for a huge momentum booster for their upcoming game against the co-leaders of the conference.
The ‘Eaters will remain on the road to face Hawai’i next Thursday, in a clash that would determine the sole leader of the conference.