Meikle’s free throws clinch Blue-Green Thriller

Updated: January 4, 2018

A lot can happen in one second. 

On Thursday night in a crowded-for-the-students-not-being-there Mott Athletics Center, Cal Poly overcame a 21-point first half deficit and a two-point deficit with one second to play to beat rival UCSB 80-79 in their Big West Conference opener. 

With fifteen seconds to play, Cal Poly’s Donovan Fields scored on a knifing left-handed layup to tie the game at 77. On the ensuing posession, UCSB’s Max Heidegger canned a long jumper to put the Gauchos up by two points with just a second left. 

The Gauchos celebrated. UCSB’s Jalen Canty gave a “shhh” signal to the Cal Poly fans. It was Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally all over again. Or so it seemed. 

Luke Meikle made three big free throws with the game on the line. By Owen Main

After a Cal Poly timeout, Fields used a Marcellus Garrick screen on the man guarding the in-bounds pass, and threw a length-of-the-court pass to Luke Meikle, who hesitated before shooting. It was less than a second, but enough to get the desired result. Meikle’s hesitation got Canty in the air. Canty bumped Meikle as he shot the ball and time expired. After a lengthy review, the officials determined that Meikle was fouled before time expired and awarded the fifth-year senior three free throws. Meikle made all three, sealing Cal Poly’s unlikely Blue-Green Rivalry victory. 

The win over the potential conference favorites moves Cal Poly to 1-0 in Big West play and dropped the Gauchos to 0-1. 

Blue start

I’m like 300-plus words in and I haven’t talked about the start. It was ugly for the home team. UCSB started the game up 23-2 and 27-6 with 11:09 left in the first half. Gabe Vincent couldn’t miss. Gaucho big men were getting to the line. Cal Poly was turning the ball over and getting really bad looks at the basket.

Joe Callero tried everything for about five minutes. He put Mark Crowe in the game and tried a 1-3-1 defense. Heidegger drained a three-pointer. He put Karlis Garoza in. Players rotated in and out like crazy, and it was hard to get traction. Trevor John came in and made a three-pointer. Things started to look up. Donovan Fields and Victor Joseph started to push the ball and not worry about running half-court offense. 

UCSB missed a few shots and the Mustangs inched closer. A single digit deficit at halftime would have been a huge win for Cal Poly. But the Mustangs did better than that, cutting the lead to four points at the break. less than a minute into the second half, Cal Poly tied the game. 

Second half rock fight

The second half went something like this. Cal Poly had no answer for Jalen Canty. The sophomore had just four points in the first half, but managed 17 in the second. UCSB had no answer for Donovan Fields. Fields played a great floor game with 22 points, 6 assists, and no turnovers.

Back and forth they went — the lead changed thirteen times in the final half, and twice in the final second of the game. 


Green Finish

Cal Poly doesn’t usually win these kinds of gams. I can remember distinctly a UC Irvine player open in the corner for a pass from Mamadou Ndiaye at the buzzer, a James Nunnally buzzer beater, and an Orlando Johnson shot that bounced off the rim, hit the moon, and barely touched the net as it went in at the buzzer. 

For once, Cal Poly found a way to win a game like this. It’s safe to say that this is a game fans will be talking about for a long time. 

Cal Poly hosts Cal State Fullerton at Mott Athletics Center on Saturday night. Tip-off is 7:00pm.

Photos by Owen Main

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