With 11 seconds to play in the game, the score tied 68-68 after an acrobatic layup from freshman guard Jordan Adams, sophomore guard Norman Powell inexplicably fouled Cal Poly guard Kyle Odister at midcourt.
Powell looked up at the scoreboard and immediately realized his blunder. The Mustangs had double bonus and with that foul, the sophomore guard sent Odister to the free throw line to win the game with two uncontested shots.
“Obviously we didn’t tell Norman to foul,” coach Ben Howland said. “He didn’t know what the score was, he said to me in the locker room afterwards, because we were down two talking about it during the timeout. We were going to foul if we were down. But with the game tied, that was obviously a critical mistake to foul with the game tied and seconds to go.”
Odister stepped up to the charity stripe and knocked down both free throws ““ which proved to be the last points of the game as unranked Cal Poly went on to defeat No. 11 UCLA 70-68.
Powell may have slipped up at the end of the game, but it wasn’t the first time the Bruins did so.
After leading by only two points heading into halftime, UCLA exerted its dominance through the first several minutes of the second half, establishing an 18-point lead over Cal Poly.
But that didn’t last long as the Mustangs pulled within single digits with under eight minutes to play in the game.
Missed assignments in rebounding and picking up players in transition plagued UCLA down the stretch.
“We started making dumb plays. We didn’t have any clock management out on the floor,” said redshirt junior forward Travis Wear. “We were trying to get fast-break points and not buckling down on defense. We need to recognize time and score and be more patient.”
The Mustangs continued to chip away at the Bruin lead, shooting 6-14 from behind the arc. They eventually overtook the lead off a tip-in from a missed shot, when Cal Poly forward Chris Eversley found himself alone under the basket with under two minutes to play.
UCLA caught up to tie the game at 68 with 20 seconds to play before Powell committed the game-deciding foul.
A loss to a mid-major like Cal Poly was hardly the way freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad wanted his home opener to go. After the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the first three home games, Muhammad finally made his debut at Pauley Pavilion and led the team in scoring, with 15 points, and rebounding, with 10 total. But the sloppy play by the Bruins cast a cloud on his first appearance on the Nell and John Wooden Court.
“It all comes down to rebounding. If you look at it, they got a lot of second chances and they converted on most of those second chances,” Muhammad said. “We have to buckle down and just want to rebound. We didn’t have any hardworking intensity out there on rebounding and defense and it really took a toll on us tonight.”
The game against the Mustangs was reminiscent of another matchup against a Big West opponent ““ the UC Irvine Anteaters. Against UCI, UCLA let its guard down after establishing a sizable lead, but were fortunate that a UCI player missed two free throws at the end of the game that could have won it.
This time, UCLA wasn’t so lucky.
“We watched the Irvine tape quite a bit,” said Cal Poly coach Joe Callero. “Irvine gave them a great game down the wire and lost it in overtime.
“We thought that if we could get it close, maybe we get a bounce, maybe they miss a shot, maybe we make a shot. It’s a lot more pressure on them when they are nationally ranked and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and those guys in green jerseys come trucking down here to wonderful UCLA, and their history and tradition.”
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