Mustang Men’s Basketball Hits the Road to Face UC Irvine and UC Riverside
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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Cal Poly men's basketball team goes in search of its first Big West road victory of the season and the program's 100th win as a member of the conference when visiting UC Irvine inside the Bren Center on Thursday, Jan. 12 and UC Riverside inside the Student Recreation Center on Saturday, Jan. 14. Both matchups tip at 7 p.m. for the Mustangs (10-6, 1-2), who registered a 5-3 road conference record a year ago. Winners of four of the previous five games, UC Irvine (6-10, 3-1) – in terms of player experience – ranks as one of the youngest sides in Division I, with seven freshman and no seniors. UC Riverside (8-8, 2-1), ranked second among Big West programs in opponent points per game (62.5) and opponent field goal percentage (40.3), hosts UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 12 before welcoming Cal Poly on Saturday evening.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS THIS WEEK: Tom Barket returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail of both of Cal Poly's upcoming matchups for GoPoly.com HERE and in San Luis Obispo County on ESPN 1280. Live stats and streaming video for both games are also available HERE.
CAL POLY VERSUS UC IRVINE: Including last season's 80-71 triumph (Feb. 10, 2011) that helped Cal Poly engineer a six-game winning streak, the Mustangs have prevailed during their last two visits to the Bren Center. Overall, the Anteaters hold a 21-17 series advantage since the first meeting between the two programs on Dec. 3, 1965.
CAL POLY VERSUS UC RIVERSIDE: The Mustangs have swept the last two regular season series from UC Riverside, but it was the Highlanders who prevailed when it mattered most, knocking Cal Poly out of the 2011 Big West Tournament with a 70-66 overtime victory (March 10). Two of the past four meetings between the programs have gone to overtime, with the Mustangs prevailing on the road in two extra periods on Feb. 13, 2010, 87-84. Overall, the Highlanders maintain a 42-41 series advantage since the first meeting between the two sides on Dec. 22, 1968.
DEFENSE REMAINS AT THE FOREFRONT: A year after developing a national reputation for defensive stinginess, the Mustangs remain atop the Big West Conference and NCAA defensive charts. Cal Poly enters Thursday's matchup at UC Irvine ranked 12th among NCAA programs in opponent points per game (56.1), as well as leading the Big West in opponent three-point percentage (31.8) and opponent rebounds per game (28.8). Highlighted by limiting USC to 36 points on Nov. 19 – the fewest points scored by a Cal Poly opponent in 18 years at the Division I level – the Mustangs have held foes under 60 points during 10 of 16 games this year. The Mustangs have also held opponents under 30 percent from three-point range a further eight times during the 2011-12 season.
MUSTANGS GRIND 'EM OUT: Cal Poly's 65-46 victory at Fresno State (Dec. 17) marked the 10th time since the start of the 2010-11 campaign that the Mustangs had held an opponent under 50 points while a 47-40 triumph at San Jose State (Dec. 10) marked the 10th time that Cal Poly had kept the combined point total under 100. Since the start of last season, Cal Poly is 9-1 when holding an opponent under 50 points and 6-4 when keeping the combined score under 100.
CAL POLY TOUGH ON THE BOARDS: Cal Poly has grabbed the same amount of boards or outrebounded its opponent during 15 of 16 games this year, mass production that has the Mustangs ranked 18th nationally in rebounding margin (plus-7.1) entering Thursday's matchup at UC Irvine. Not surprisingly, Cal Poly is 9-3 when outrebounding the opposition with the only defeats coming at DePaul (Dec. 21), versus UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 2) and at Long Beach State (Jan. 5).
TAYLOR RISING TO THE OCCASION: With four double-doubles tucked into his back pocket – including a 17-point, 11-rebound effort against UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 2) – senior forward Will Taylor (above) enters Thursday's matchup at UC Irvine leading all Big West players with a 54.2 (65-for-120) percent field goal mark while ranking fourth with 7.8 rebounds per game. A starter during all 16 of Cal Poly's contests after redshirting last season, Taylor has grabbed seven-plus rebounds in a game nine times this year, recorded double-digit scoring figures seven times and shot higher than 60 percent from the floor on six occasions.
FERMIN FORGES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: The Big West's most efficient point guard, senior Amaurys Fermin enters Thursday's matchup at UC Irvine leading all conference players in assists (64) while ranking second in assists per game (4.00) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.78-to-1). Fermin, who matched a career high with eight assists at DePaul (Dec. 21), also ranks second among Mustangs with 10.6 points per contest and owns a team-leading 11 double-digit scoring games this season. After redshirting the 2009-10 (transfer) and 2010-11 (injury) seasons, Fermin has started all 16 games for Cal Poly this year.
HANSON BACK IN FORM: Held to just four total points during Cal Poly's opening two games, senior forward David Hanson enters Thursday's matchup at UC Irvine having reached double-digit scoring figures in 11 of the program's last 14 contests. Cal Poly's leading returning scorer from last year, Hanson currently paces the Mustangs with 10.9 points per game after posting successive double-doubles at DePaul (Dec. 21; 13 points, 11 rebounds) and versus Hope International (Dec. 29; 11 points, 11 rebounds).
ROYER KEEPS THE HOT HAND: The Big West's top three-point threat with a 54.7 (35-for-64) percent mark from the arc, junior guard Dylan Royer would lead all 4,225 Division I players had he met the NCAA statistical minimum of 2.5 made three-pointers per game. The only central coast native on Cal Poly's roster, Royer has twice knocked down a career-high five three-pointers this season: versus Mississippi Valley State (5-for-7, Nov. 26) and Sacramento State (5-for-5, Nov. 30). Fourth among Mustangs with 7.4 points per contest, Royer has hit at least one three-pointer in 16 of his last 17 games and knocked down multiple three-pointers on 10 occasions this season. Royer, who scored 41 combined points between his freshman and sophomore seasons, has already registered 118 as a junior. He's also started during seven of 16 games this year after making just 28 combined appearances during his first two seasons.
EVERSLEY BREAKS OUT: Sophomore forward Chris Eversley became the sixth Mustang to set a new collegiate scoring high and the seventh to set a career rebounding high this year after notching 18 points and grabbing nine boards to spur Cal Poly's 73-67 victory against Cal State Fullerton (Jan. 7). Eversley, whose 18-point total accounts for one-fourth of his 70 points this season, has appeared in all 16 games for Cal Poly after redshirting last season (transfer).
WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE: Cal Poly's 14 home games this season are the most contests inside Mott Gym since the program hosted 16 opponents during the 1999-00 campaign. Under Joe Callero, Cal Poly has posted a 18-13 overall mark in Mott Gym, a 10-8 record against Big West opposition and, this season alone, allowed just 58.2 points per game.
MUSTANGS FACE NATION'S FINEST IN 2011-12: In what has become a hallmark of head coach Joe Callero's three-season tenure, Cal Poly will again face another testing schedule during the 2011-12 campaign. Continuing with a Jan. 21 home clash against Long Beach State, Cal Poly will play seven games this season against programs that qualified for either the 2011 NCAA Tournament or NIT.
HAWAI'I AND SAN DIEGO STATE SET TO JOIN BIG WEST CONFERENCE: Cal Poly's number of conference games will swell to 18 next season and 20 for the 2013-14 campaign with the successive additions of Hawai'i and San Diego State to the Big West. Previously a member of the Big West from 1984-96, Hawai'i will resume official competition during the 2012-13 campaign with San Diego State – an original conference member (1969-78) – set to rejoin the following year. Both schools will compete in every sport in which the Big West sponsors a championship.
NOTABLE NIGHT: During a 91-58 dismantling of Menlo College (Dec. 14), Cal Poly enjoyed numerous offensive achievements, most notably for:
– Total Points (91): Cal Poly's highest total since defeating Hawai'i, 102-89, on Feb. 20, 2010.
– Margin of Victory (33 points): Cal Poly's largest since pounding North Florida on Nov. 21, 2008 (76-42) – a span of 96 games.
– Players in Double-Digit Scoring Figures (Five): Cal Poly's highest since the aforementioned win at Hawai'i.
– Total Assists (19) / Fewest Turnovers (Six): Cal Poly's assist total was its highest since distributing 19 during a 95-81 win at UC Irvine on Jan. 4, 2010; the turnover total was the program's lowest since defeating UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 20, 2007, 71-61 – a span of 142 games. Cal Poly's 3.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio was the highest mark under third-year head coach Joe Callero.
MUSTANGS SIGN THREE FOR 2012-13 CAMPAIGN: Joe Callero and the Mustang Athletics Department increased Cal Poly's collective height and strengthened the program's collective depth on Nov. 9 with the joint announcement that 6-7 Zachary Allmon (San Luis Obispo, Calif. / Mission College Prep), 6-9 Brian Bennett (Romeoville, Ill. / Plainfield East HS) and 6-8 Josh Hall (Brush Prarie, Wash. / St. John's Northwestern Military Academy) each signed National Letters of Intent to join the Mustangs for the 2012-13 campaign. As a junior during the 2010-11 campaign, Allmon averaged 12.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game for a Mission Prep side that reached the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5-AA semifinals. An All-San Luis Obispo County first team selection last season, Allmon also served as a captain for the Royals. Bennett helped lead Plainfield East HS to the program's first victory in the Illinois State Tournament during the 2010-11 season. Ranked among the Southwest Prairie Conference's leaders in both field goal and free throw percentage, Bennett has been named to the honor roll during each of his semesters at Plainfield East HS. Hall is attending St. John's Northwestern Military Academy (Delafield, Wisc.) following a standout career at Hockinson HS. Hall earned All-Washington first team praise and was named Most Valuable Player of the Greater St. Helens League as a senior during the 2010-11 campaign after averaging more than 20 points per game and leading the Hawks to a conference championship. A four-year All-Greater St. Helens League first team honoree, Hall owns half of Hockinson's school scoring records, including career points (1,571).
ETC.: Cal Poly improved to 9-9 in season-opening contests at the Division I level with a 79-52 victory against San Jose State (Nov. 12) … Cal Poly's lone victory when trailing at halftime this season was a 42-36 triumph at USC on Nov 19 (the Mustangs trailed at the break, 20-13) … Cal Poly's lone defeat when leading at halftime was a 59-54 home defeat against Saint Mary's (the Mustangs led at the break, 26-25) ... the Mustangs have compiled the same amount or more fouls than their opponents during 13 of 16 games this season … Cal Poly's Nov. 22 matchup at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center drew 12,061 spectators, the largest attendance figure for the Mustangs since 17,230 fans packed Wisconsin's Kohl Center on Dec. 16, 2009 … Cal Poly's 62-61 victory against Morgan State (Nov. 25) was the program's 200th triumph at the Division I level … a 58-57 Big West Conference-opening loss against UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 2) marked Cal Poly's 500th game at the Division I level.