No. 11 UCLA shocked by Cal Poly

Bruins' 18-point lead disappears in the second half as Cal Poly rallies at Pauley Pavilion.

LOS ANGELES — Before the start of the season, coaches from across Southern California congregated in downtown Los Angeles for the John Wooden Tip-off Luncheon.

Among the head coaches in attendance was Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero. He boasted about his team dribbling the air out of the ball and playing an unexciting brand of basketball.  As he spoke of his team's November match-up with UCLA, Callero looked at UCLA head coach Ben Howland and said, “This is going to be the ugliest game in the world.

“It’s going to be a football score at halftime,” Callero said at the time, drawing a chorus of laughs. “That’s how we win. It’s going to be 14-13. They’re going to yell at me because we won’t shoot the ball. If we don’t shoot it then they can’t get it. That’s our whole philosophy and everybody is upset with the quality of the game except our players. They love that and they buy into that.”

On Sunday, Callero brought that less than exciting brand of basketball to the new Pauley Pavilion to take on No. 11 UCLA.

It wasn’t quite 14-13 at halftime but possessions were limited and the teams combined to make just 21 first-half field goals. The pace was slow and methodical to Callero’s liking, with the Bruins carrying a slim 29-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.

But in the second half the Bruins sped things up and took command, going ahead by as many as 18 points. The resilient Mustangs, however, had an answer that was good enough to lead them to a 70-68 win, handing the Bruins (4-2) their first loss in the new Pauley Pavilion and spoiling the home debut of Shabazz Muhammad.

The Bruins' heralded freshman had a double-double — 15 points and 10 rebounds — in his Pauley Pavilion debut to lead the Bruins, but Dylan Royer paced four Mustangs (2-2) in double figures with 18 points.

Royer connected on four 3-pointers in the second half. He and Kyle Odister combined to make five 3-pointers in the last 9:30 of the game.

The Bruins had one field goal in the game’s final three minutes.

Howland’s bunch was blindsided. They appeared to take control in the second half, opening things up with a 12-4 run to take a 41-31 lead four minutes into the half.

The game moved a lot faster and the Bruins appeared to have the Mustangs right where they wanted them. Down by double digits, Cal Poly couldn’t afford to dribble the air out of the ball as they did during the first half.

But after taking an 18-point lead, the Bruins proceeded to miss seven of their next nine field goals. They were barely able to stay alive by getting to the free throw line.

Royer tied the game, 63-63, connecting on a 3-pointer with 3:19 left.

UCLA trailed by three, 68-65, and had an opportunity to get to within one at the free throw line. Larry Drew II missed the second of two, but the Bruins received a gift when Chris Eversley was called for traveling. Eversley grabbed the rebound when Drew II missed the free throw but didn’t land on his feet, falling flat on his back with 20 seconds remaining.

Jordan Adams tied the game 68-68 on the ensuing possession, but inexplicably on the Mustangs' next possession, Norman Powell fouled Odister with 11 seconds left.

The Cal Poly junior made two free throws to give the Mustangs a 70-68 lead they would not relinquish. 

The Bruins' slate of Big West competition continues on Wednesday when they host Cal State Northridge at 9 p.m.

The win on Sunday for Cal Poly was their first road win of the season. They scored a season-high 70 points to do so. They were ranked 301st in the country, averaging just 59 points per game.

Callero, it turns out, spoke the truth at the luncheon last month. He said everybody would be upset with the quality of play except his players.

He’s a man of his word.

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