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
“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
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.