LAS VEGAS – Cal Poly basketball coach Greg Kamansky buried his head in his hands and stared at the floor in disbelief. Two of his players had just bobbled a loose ball and a Central Washington player scooped it up for an easy put back giving the Wildcats a 14-point lead.
There were still 12 minutes left but Kamansky knew his team wasn’t coming back. That premonition proved true as the reeling Broncos suffered a 84-66 loss in their second game of the Great Western Shootout at the Centennial Hills Center in Las Vegas Wednesday.
The loss dropped the Broncos to 1-5 on the season, although the good new is that an 0-4 part of that is non-conference play. It is the worst start for the school since going 1-6 to start the 1981-82 season.
After the game Kamansky kept his team in the lockerroom for 90 minutes. There was considerable shouting audible from the adjacent hallway.
“In all of these games we have had leads,” Kamansky said. “But in every one we have a good 10 minutes and then self destruct. We don’t have that mentality that allows us to respond when things get tough. Instead we just fall apart. That has to change soon.”
Even though it is early the frustration is showing on the court as well. Senior center Kaelen Daniels was ejected with 7:15 left in the first half and the Broncos up 21-20. Donnelle Booker had just been at the free-throw line and Daniels got tangled up with a Wildcat player underneath and was said to have thrown a punch.
Kamansky argued vehemently and was assessed a technical foul. Matt Penoncello only made two of four technicals tosses but Giovonne Woods drained a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, giving Central a 25-21 lead.
Kamansky said he didn’t see what was called. He thought Daniels had been being held all game by Central’s Bryce Daub, something a Bronco assistant had asked the referees to watch. The coach thought Daniels was only trying to clear some room but will watch the video to see exactly what happened.
“I don’t want to say that cost us the game, but it was a momentum changer,” Kamansky added. “And we don’t have the kind of team that answers adversity in a positive manner.”
The Broncos were within two at 25-23 seconds later but it was all Wildcats (4-3) after that. Central outscored Cal Poly 14-7 the rest of the half and led 39-30 at the intermission.
Things didn’t get any better after that. The Wildcats started the second half with an 11-4 run and never looked back.
Junior forward Larry Gordon made up for a poor showing in the first half of Tuesday’s loss to Western Washington with 23 points, 10 rebounds,four blocks and two assists.
But he didn’t have a lot of help. Senior guard Angelo Tsagarakis netted 10 but six of those were from the free-throw line. He went just 2-of-8 from the field including an 0-for-5 from long distance.
The numbers actually made the contest look closer than it was with Central Washington shooting 48.3 percent (25-for-58) and Cal Poly Pomona managing 44 (22-for-50). Central went 17-for-26 for the line while the Broncos went 19-for-28 but the Wildcats were aided by an 11-for-23 effort from 3-point range compared to a 3-of-15 for the Broncos.
Central Washington had four players finish in double figures led by Penoncello with 18 and Nate Jackson with 17.
Next up for the Broncos is non-conference game against Division II LeMoyne on Dec. 30. Kamansky said he is not sure whether the ejection means Daniels will have to sit out that game.