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March 6, 2013

Big West Tournament Seeding on Line During Regular Season Finales

COMPLETE WEEKLY PREVIEW (pdf)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Chasing the program's lengthiest winning streak in two years, the Cal Poly men's basketball team jockeys for Big West Conference Tournament seeding when wrapping up the 2012-13 regular season against UC Riverside on Thursday, March 7 and Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, March 9. Both games tip at 7 p.m. inside the Mott Athletics Center for Cal Poly (15-12, 10-6), which looks to extend a winning streak to four games for the first time since winning six straight from Jan. 26 to Feb. 16, 2011. Also winners of 12 successive home games against conference opposition, Cal Poly can cement program single season Division I records for home victories and home winning percentage by winning twice this week. Cal Poly climbed to third place in the Big West standings with consecutive road wins last week and the Mustangs can clinch no worse than the No. 4 seed for March 14-16 Big West Tournament by winning their final two games. Mustang head coach Joe Callero requires just one more victory to reach 200 wins during his 14-year career. The Mustangs enter play this week ranked second among 347 Division I programs in fewest turnovers committed per game (9.5) and fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.48-to-1). Individually, Cal Poly junior guard Jamal Johnson ranks 10th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.92-to-1) while senior guard Dylan Royer ranks 28th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 42.3 percent three-point mark.

HOW TO ENJOY MUSTANG BASKETBALL THIS WEEK: Tom Barket (Twitter: @tombarket) returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail of Cal Poly's March 7 matchup against UC Riverside and March 9 contest versus Cal State Fullerton for GoPoly.com HERE and in San Luis Obispo County on ESPN 1280. Live stats and streaming video of both games will also be available through GoPoly.com HERE.

CAL POLY VERSUS UC RIVERSIDE: Including a 58-48 Big West-opening victory at UC Riverside (Dec. 29), Cal Poly has won seven of its last nine matchups against the Highlanders. Cal Poly, which leads both the Division I (21-8) and all-time series (44-43) against the Highlanders, has won all three home contests versus UC Riverside under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero.

CAL POLY VERSUS CAL STATE FULLERTON: Cal Poly has won its last two home matchups versus Cal State Fullerton, edging the Titans on Jan. 7, 2012 (73-67) and Jan. 13, 2011 (58-54). Despite dropping a 77-60 decision at Titan Gym earlier this season, the Mustangs lead both the all-time (33-24) and Division I series (18-16) versus the Cal State Fullerton.

MUSTANGS GO STREAKING: Cal Poly enters Thursday's contest versus UC Riverside looking for its first four-game winning streak since winning six successive contests from Jan. 29 to Feb. 16, 2011. The six-game streak marks the only time Cal Poly has won at least four straight games under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero.

BIG WEST HISTORY ON THE HORIZON: Cal Poly requires just one additional victory to post its highest Big West win total since joining the conference for the 1996-97 season. Aside from this year, Cal Poly also posted 10 Big West victories during the 2002-03 (10-8) and 2010-11 (10-6) seasons. Two additional conference victories will allow Cal Poly to post its best Big West winning percentage in program history. Cal Poly has also finished as high as second in the Big West standings just twice prior, producing the feat during the 2006-07 season before matching it during the 2010-11 campaign.

HOME HISTORY ON THE HORIZON: With two home victories this week, Cal Poly can enjoy its finest season inside the Mott Athletics Center at the Division I level. Cal Poly's 10-4 finish at home last season was the program's best showing inside the Mott Athletics Center since posting Division I program records for home wins (12) and winning percentage (.857) during the 2006-07 campaign. Off to an 11-1 start at home this year and winners of 12 successive home games against Big West opponents, Cal Poly is 23-9 in conference contests inside the Mott Athletics Center under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero. In support of Cal Poly's winning ways, the Mustangs have experienced a 42.5 percent increase in attendance between the 2008-09 campaign (the final season prior to Callero's central coast arrival) and last season's average of 2,242 fans per home contest. Cal Poly has never experienced a losing record inside the Mott Athletics Center under Callero and is 34-16 at home since his 2009 arrival.

POSSESSION IS NINE-TENTHS OF THE VICTORY: One of the nation's most efficient teams featuring one of Division I's most efficient players, Cal Poly's figure for fewest turnovers per game (9.5) trails only No. 22 Wisconsin (9.4) while the Mustangs rank fifth among 347 Division I programs with a 1.48-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and 41st with a plus-2.7 turnover margin. Highlighted by a 22-assist performance against Cal State Northridge (Feb. 28) – the highest single-game total in 121 contests under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero – Cal Poly has finished with a double-digit assist total in 24 of 27 games this season and with a single-digit turnover total 13 times. Cal Poly's other prolific passing games this season include 20-assist efforts versus Menlo College (Dec. 8) and Hawai'i (Jan. 24) and 18-assist performances versus Northern Colorado (Nov. 15), UC Davis (Feb. 9) and at Hawai'i (March 2).

EVERSLEY REMAINS CAL POLY'S CATALYST: With 26 double-digit scoring outings during his previous 35 contests and seven double-doubles this season, junior forward Chris Eversley – a two-time Big West Player of the Week selection after capturing honors on Monday – enters Thursday's matchup versus UC Riverside ranked sixth among Big West players with a team-leading 16.2 points per contest. Eversley, whose most recent highlight achievements include a 23-point effort at Cal State Northridge (Feb. 28) and a 25-point showing at Hawai'i (March 2), also ranks sixth among conference players with 7.3 rebounds per game. Eversley's other notable achievements this season include a 25-point effort at Saint Mary's (Dec. 1), 22 points at Santa Clara (Dec. 17), 23 points at Washington (Dec. 20), 24 points against UC Irvine (Jan. 5), a career-high 30 points versus Cal State Northridge (Jan. 26) and a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double that helped Cal Poly topple then-No. 11 UCLA (Nov. 25). He also grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds at UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 19). Cal Poly's leading returning scorer and rebounder from last season, Eversley is averaging 11.7 career points per game at Cal Poly.

ROYER'S CATCH AND RELEASE POLICY: A year after finishing fifth nationally in three-point percentage, Dylan Royer is again ranked among the top sharpshooters in Division I. Royer, who registered career highs for points (23) and three-pointers (seven) during Cal Poly's Feb. 16 home victory versus UC Santa Barbara before matching both marks at Cal State Northridge (Feb. 28), enters Thursday's contest versus UC Riverside ranked 28th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 42.0 (73-for-174) percent three-point figure. One of two central coast natives on Cal Poly's roster, Royer has knocked down at least one three-pointer during 34 of his last 37 games and multiple three-pointers in 29 of the previous 37 contests. Royer also hit six three-pointers to spur Cal Poly's upset of No. 11 UCLA (Nov. 25) and during the program's home victory against UC Davis (Feb. 9). Shooting 44.1 (158-for-358) percent from the three-point line as a collegian and ranked seventh in Cal Poly history in total three-pointers, Royer has reached double-digit scoring figures in 12 of 27 games this season.

BENNETT HEADLINES CAL POLY'S FRESHMAN CLASS: Ranked 51st among Division I players and fifth among Big West performers with a 53.5 (116-for-217) percent field goal mark, 6-9 freshman forward Brian Bennett has scarcely ceased offensive production since posting a 10-point, 11-rebound game during his first collegiate outing at TCU (Nov. 9). Third among Mustangs with 9.7 points per game, Bennett's most recent highlight effort was a career-high 23-point game that helped Cal Poly edge Loyola Marymount 63-60 in a Feb. 23 BracketBuster matchup. Bennett also scored 17 points in successive victories against Hawai'i (Jan. 24) and Cal State Northridge (Jan. 26) and 16 points to help Cal Poly topple No. 11 UCLA (Nov. 25). Bennett, who's started all 27 games for Cal Poly this season, has reached double-digit scoring figures 12 times.

JOHNSON FORGES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: Cal Poly's leading distributor is Jamal Johnson, who enters Thursday's game versus UC Riverside ranked 10th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 2.92-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. During Cal Poly's last four games, Johnson has distributed 24 assists against just five turnovers. Ranked third among Big West players with a team-leading 4.1 assists per game, Johnson established a new career high with nine assists during Cal Poly's Feb. 28 victory at Cal State Northridge. Johnson has also recorded eight assists against Long Beach State (Jan. 5) and Loyola Marymount (Feb. 23). Johnson has kicked down multiple assists in 23 of 27 games this season and five-plus assists 11 times.

TALE OF TWO SITES: Bolstering Cal Poly's third-place position in the Big West standings is one the conference's more enviable home records as the Mustangs are 11-1 inside the Mott Athletics Center this season and have won 12 successive home contests against league opposition. The Mustangs, however, are just 4-11 away from the central coast this year and have only won four of their previous 14 Big West road matchups. Cal Poly is averaging 72.4 points per game at home this year (versus 61.7 on the road) and shooting 44.6 percent from the floor (against a 40.8 percent clip on the road).

MUSTANGS FACING ANOTHER TESTING SCHEDULE: Labeling it "the most ambitious schedule we've ever put together," fourth-year head coach Joe Callero and his Mustangs will play 11 games during the regular season against programs that qualified for postseason play a year ago.

MUSTANGS RETURN TO THE SMALL SCREEN: A 64-61 victory at Hawai'i (March 2) marked Cal Poly's program-record sixth televised game of the 2012-13 season. Including a March 14 Big West Tournament quarterfinal matchup, the Mustangs will appear on television a minimum of seven times this season.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: A handful of historic achievements were recorded during Cal Poly's 70-68 upstaging of No. 11 UCLA on Nov. 25:  
• The victory was Cal Poly's first against a nationally ranked opponent at the Division I level and first against UCLA in six all-time matchups.
• UCLA, which was handed its first loss at New Pauley Pavilion, entered the game as the second-highest ranked opponent Cal Poly had ever faced.
• UCLA went from No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll to unranked, a drop that marked the second biggest free fall in the 64-year history of the poll. Only Missouri, ranked No. 9 at one point in 2011, had fallen further.
• In upsetting UCLA, Cal Poly overcame an 18-point deficit with 12 minutes to play.

CAL POLY SOLIDIFIES BACKCOURT FOR 2013-14 SEASON: Cal Poly strengthened an already deep backcourt on Nov. 14 with the announcement that guards Markel Leonard (Hercules, Calif.; Salesian HS), Ridge Shipley (Carrollton, Texas; Hebron HS) and Taylor Sutlive (San Antonio, Texas; Churchill HS) signed National Letters of Intent. The 6-0, 165-pound Leonard averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game during his 2011-12 junior season for a Salesian HS squad that finished 34-2 overall and captured the California Interscholastic Federation Division IV state championship. A two-year letterwinner for Hebron HS, the 6-0, 170-pound Shipley averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 assists per game during his 2011-12 junior season to earn all-district and all-area first team praise. The 6-3, 185-pound Sutlive averaged 12.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game last year to assist Churchill HS to a 33-3 overall record and a district 26-5A championship.

LOOKING AHEAD (MARCH 4-10): Eight teams enter, but one program will leave with an NCAA Tournament invitation when the 37th Big West Tournament gets underway on Thursday, March 14 with four quarterfinal matchups to be televised live on Fox PRIME TICKET at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The two March 15 semifinal matchups (6 p.m., 8:30 p.m.) will be carried on ESPNU with the championship bout set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 16 and scheduled to be shown on ESPN2. Cal Poly has never won the Big West Tournament in 10 appearances, but twice reached the championship game during the 2003 and 2007 competitions.

ETC.: Cal Poly has won three of its four home openers under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero and is 14-5 at the Division I level in home-opening contests after topping Northern Colorado, 64-53 (Nov. 15) … Cal Poly's 70-68 victory at UCLA (Nov. 25) marked the program's first win against a ranked opponent in 19 Division I seasons, the first win against the Bruins in six all-time meetings and UCLA's first loss at New Pauley Pavilion … UCLA went from No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll to unranked following the loss to Cal Poly, a drop that marked the second biggest free fall in the 64-year history of the poll. Only Missouri, ranked No. 9 at one point in 2011, had fallen further … the 64.4 (29-for-45) percent field goal mark allowed against Saint Mary's (Dec. 1) was Cal Poly's highest since letting Portland State shoot 67.4 (31-for-46) percent during a 92-83 loss on Nov. 21, 2009 (a span of 97 games) … the 14 points scored by Menlo College during the first half of Cal Poly's 89-43 victory (Dec. 8) were the fewest by a Mustang opponent at the Division I level … the victory against Menlo also marked head coach Joe Callero's 100th game at the helm of Cal Poly and the program's second 46-point win of the 2012 calendar year (the Mustangs trounced Cal State Northridge on Jan. 21, 2012, 100-54) … Cal Poly failed to win the opening five tips of the season before prevailing against Menlo College (Dec. 8) … Cal Poly improved to 29-1 at the Division I level against non-Division I opponents with a 60-57 victory against Division II Eastern New Mexico (Dec. 14) … between a Dec. 1 loss at Saint Mary's, a Dec. 11 defeat at Nevada and a Dec. 8 home victory against Menlo College, Cal Poly played three successive games that did not feature a lead change … the Mustangs improved to 6-11 in Big West-opening games and 4-4 in conference openers on the road after a 58-48 victory at UC Riverside (Dec. 29) … the win at UC Riverside marked head coach Joe Callero's 50th victory in charge of the Mustangs … Cal Poly snapped a six-game slide against Long Beach State with a 79-73 home triumph on Jan. 3 (the win was also Cal Poly's first inside the Mott Athletics Center against Long Beach State in five seasons) … Cal Poly's seven blocks registered versus UC Davis (Feb. 9) marked the program's highest total since recording nine blocks against Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 13, 2011 – a span of 70 games … Cal Poly's 63-60 BracketBuster victory against Loyola Marymount (Feb. 23) marked fourth-year head coach Joe Callero's 50th home game in charge of the Mustangs … Cal Poly's 80.0 (12-for-15) percent three-point mark during an 81-61 victory at Cal State Northridge (Feb. 28) established a new single-game program record.