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Mustang Men's Basketball Completes Big West Preparations on Thursday

Mustang Men's Basketball Completes Big West Preparations on Thursday

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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Cal Poly men's basketball program concludes preparations for Big West Conference action by hosting NAIA Hope International inside Mott Gym at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29. The Mustangs (8-4) saw their second three-game winning streak of the year snapped at DePaul (Dec. 21), but can still match the program's best opening to a season in 18 Division I campaigns with a victory on Thursday against the Royals. Winners of six of the previous eight games, the Mustangs have never previously faced Hope International. Members of the Golden State Athletic Conference, Fullerton-based Hope International improved to 8-1 after defeating Vancouver Island University on Wednesday, 65-55.

FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS THIS WEEK: Tom Barket returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail of Cal Poly's Dec. 29 matchup versus Hope International for GoPoly.com and in San Luis Obispo County on ESPN 1280. Live stats and streaming video for both games are also available through GoPoly.com.

BEAUTIFUL BEGINNING: Cal Poly's 8-4 start trails only the 2001-02 Mustang squad (9-3) for the best opening to a season in 18 Division I campaigns. However, victories against Hope International (Dec. 29) and UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 2) will allow Cal Poly to surpass the 2001-02 Mustangs, who dropped three-successive contests after winning nine of their first 12 games.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Mustangs open their 16th season of Big West competition and the 2012 calendar year by hosting central coast rival UC Santa Barbara on Monday, Jan. 2 at 7 p.m. inside Mott Gym. The matchup will be televised live locally on KSBY-TV and serves as Cal Poly's 500th contest at the Division I level.

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 versus Hope International ranked eighth among NCAA programs in opponent points per game (54.7) and 40th in opponent three-point percentage (28.6), as well as leading the Big West in opponent rebounds per game (28.1). 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 eight of 12 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 in 10 of 12 games this year, production that has the Mustangs ranked 20th nationally in rebounding margin (plus-7.8) entering Thursday's matchup versus Hope International. Not surprisingly, Cal Poly is 7-1 when outrebounding the opposition with the lone defeat coming at DePaul (Dec. 21).

TAYLOR RISES TO THE OCCASION: Having produced his third double-double of the season (11 points, 10 rebounds) at DePaul (Dec. 21), senior forward Will Taylor enters Thursday's matchup versus Hope International ranked third among Big West players with a 57.1 (48-for-84) percent field goal mark and fourth with a team-best 7.6 rebounds per game. A starter in all 12 of Cal Poly's contests after redshirting last season, Taylor has shot higher than 60 percent from the floor and recorded double-digit scoring figures five times this year and grabbed seven-plus rebounds on six occasions.

FERMIN MAKES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: The Big West's most efficient point guard, senior Amaurys Fermin enters Thursday's matchup versus Hope International leading all conference players in assists (56), assists per game (4.67) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.07-to-1). Fermin, who matched a career high with eight assists at DePaul (Dec. 21), also ranks second among Mustangs with 10.2 points per contest and owns eight double-digit scoring games.

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 versus Hope International having reached double-digit scoring figures in eight of the program's last 10 contests. Cal Poly's leading returning scorer from last year, Hanson currently paces the Mustangs with 11.2 points per game after posting a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double at DePaul (Dec. 21).

HANSON JOINS ELITE CLUB: A team-leading 12-point performance during Cal Poly's triumph at Fresno State (Dec. 17) was enough to allow David Hanson entry into the program's 18-member career 1,000-point scorer's club.

ROYER KEEPS THE HOT HAND: The Big West's top three-point threat with a 58.3 (28-for-48) percent mark from the arc, junior guard Dylan Royer would also rank first ahead of approximately 4,224 Division I players had he met national statistical minimums. Royer, the only central coast native on Cal Poly's roster, 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 7.8 points per contest, Royer has hit at least one three-pointer in 13-successive games, dating to last season. Royer, who scored 41 combined points between his freshman and sophomore seasons, has already registered 94 as a junior.

SAY WHAT'S REAL – DRAKE U'U: A starter in all 12 of Cal Poly's games after making just 18 appearances last season, junior guard Drake U'u has cemented his increased role by ranking fifth among Mustangs with 7.7 points per game, posting a 2.09-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and leading the program with a 91.3 percent (21-for-23) free throw mark. Currently on pace to smash the program's single-season free throw percentage record (Mike Wozniak, 89.0 percent, 1997-98), U'u would also lead every Big West player, had he met the conference statistical minimum of two made free throws per game.

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 16-12 overall mark in Mott Gym, a 9-7 record against Big West opposition and, this season alone, allowed just 56.0 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. 2 clash against UC Santa Barbara, 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 11 of 12 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.