Cal Poly Shocks UCSB in Big West Opener, 80-79

Jalen Canty (Photo by David Hague)
Jalen Canty (Photo by David Hague)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Luke Meikle made three free throws with 0.3 seconds left in the game to give Cal Poly a stunning 80-79 win over visiting UC Santa Barbara on Thursday night. 

The Gauchos (11-4 overall, 0-1 in the Big West) had taken a two-point lead with 1.0 second to play on an acrobatic 16-foot jump shot by Max Heidegger, but the Mustangs (6-9, 1-0) called timeout to set-up a final play. 

On the last play, guard Donovan Fields ran the baseline before heaving a pass to Meikle just over midcourt. Meikle pump-faked, got UCSB's Jalen Canty in the air, and then launched a three-point attempt. Canty was whistled for a foul setting up the dramatic finish. The play took just 0.7 seconds, leaving the visitors with time for a full court shot that didn't fall.

"In the end, we just didn't get it done on that possession," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "Right now this hurts, but we'll learn from it. We'll practice tomorrow and be ready for the game against UC Riverside on Saturday night." 

The Gauchos began the game on a roll, running out to a 23-2 lead with 12:54 left in the first half, but the Mustangs clawed back and narrowed the advantage to 40-36 at halftime.

The second half saw 14 lead changes before Meikle's free throws ended it. 

Canty's foul put a damper on an otherwise outstanding night for the senior. He finished the game with career-highs of 21 points and six blocked shots to go along with 10 rebounds. 

"Jalen played a very good offensive game," Pasternack said. "Not only did he make some big shots, he also had some big blocks and got some big rebounds. I thought we played pretty well inside tonight." 

In addition to Canty's double-double, Leland King II added 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Heidegger, who struggled with his shot and finished 5-for-17, had 18 points. Gabe Vincent battled foul trouble and was limited to 20 minutes, but hit 3-of-4 three-point attempts and had 13 points.

After a sizzling 8-for-10 start from the field, the Gauchos settled in and finished 29-for-63, 46.0%. The Mustangs struggled early, but finished at 43.5% overall.

Fields' pass on the final play wasn't his only contribution for Cal Poly. The lightning-quick point guard had 22 points and six assists. Victor Joseph added 16 points and Meikle 13 for the home team. 

UCSB will return on Saturday when it hosts UC Riverside in a 9:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome. The Gaucho-Highlander game will be televised on ESPNU.