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Cal Poly Opens Big West Tournament Thursday versus UC Riverside

Cal Poly Opens Big West Tournament Thursday versus UC Riverside




SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The fourth-seeded Cal Poly men's basketball program opens play at the 37th Big West Conference Tournament on Thursday, March 8 inside the Honda Center (Anaheim, Calif.) at 8:30 p.m. with a quarterfinal-round matchup against a familiar foe: No. 5 UC Riverside (14-16, 7-9), a program that eliminated the Mustangs (17-11, 8-8) at the same stage of last year's competition. A victory against the Highlanders advances Cal Poly to either a 6:30 or 9 p.m. semifinal matchup on Friday, March 9. Cal Poly, which has never won the Big West Tournament, has not advanced to the semifinals since the 2006-07 Mustang squad finished as runners-up. With an automatic NCAA Tournament berth hanging in the balance, the Big West Tournament championship game is scheduled for Saturday, March 10 at 7 p.m. Both Big West Tournament semifinal games will be televised on ESPNU with Saturday's championship bout scheduled for ESPN2. The tournament schedule is below.

2012 Big West Conference Tournament
Honda Center (Anaheim, Calif.)
Thursday, March 8 (Quarterfinal)
No. 3 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 6 Pacific, 12 noon
No. 2 Cal State Fullerton vs. No. 7 UC Irvine, 30 minutes after
No. 1 Long Beach State vs. No. 8 UC Davis, 6 p.m.
No. 4 Cal Poly vs. No. 5 UC Riverside, 30 minutes after
Friday, March 9 (Semifinal / ESPNU)
Highest Remaining Seed vs. Lowest Remaining, 6:30 p.m.
Remaining Seeds, 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 10 (Championship / ESPN2)
Remaining Seeds, 7 p.m.

FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS AT THE BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: Tom Barket returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail for each of Cal Poly's Big West Tournament games on ESPN 1280 in San Luis Obispo County and online HERE. Live stats for each of Cal Poly's tournament games and streaming video of the program's March 8 quarterfinal matchup versus UC Riverside is available HERE. Both semifinal games will air on ESPNU with the championship bout scheduled for ESPN2. Mark Jones will provide play-by-play detail and Miles Simon color commentary for The Worldwide Leader.

CAL POLY AT THE BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: The Mustangs are 5-9 in nine previous appearances in the Big West Tournament and have advanced as far as the championship game during the 2003 and 2007 editions. Cal Poly's first title game appearance in 2003 resulted in a 57-54 loss against No. 3 Utah State. Seeded second in 2007 after finishing in a three-way tie for second place in the Big West standings, Cal Poly trounced Cal State Fullerton during the semifinals (81-56) before falling in the championship versus top-seeded Long Beach State (94-83). Overall, Cal Poly is 4-5 during its first tournament game and 2-1 in semifinal matchups. Cal Poly's lone semifinal-round loss occurred in 2006, when the fourth-seeded Mustangs fell versus No. 1 Pacific, 68-57. Aside from conference tournaments, Cal Poly has never played a postseason game in 18 Division I seasons.

LOOKING AHEAD: The selection show for the 2012 NCAA Tournament will air on CBS on Sunday, March 11 at 3 p.m. PT. The NCAA Tournament gets underway with the First Four, scheduled for March 13-14 at the University of Dayton Arena. The second and third rounds are slated for March 15-18 at eight regional sites: Albuquerque, Columbus, Greensboro, Louisville, Nashville, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Portland.

CAL POLY VERSUS UC RIVERSIDE: The Mustangs and Highlanders split the 2011-12 regular season series with UC Riverside prevailing in the Inland Empire, 60-53, on Jan. 14 before Cal Poly produced a 54-52 triumph during the return game in San Luis Obispo on Feb. 9. Two of Cal Poly's past six meetings against UC Riverside have gone to overtime – the most frequent occurrence against any Mustang opponent under head coach Joe Callero. Overall, the Highlanders maintain a 43-42 series edge since the first meeting between the two sides on Dec. 22, 1968.

CAL POLY VERSUS UC RIVERSIDE AT THE BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: The Mustangs have faced UC Riverside three times at the Big West Tournament (2004, 2008, 2011) … and been eliminated by the Highlanders on each occasion. Last season, the Mustangs were seeded No. 2 for just the second time in program history, but dropped a 70-66 quarterfinal-round matchup against UC Riverside in overtime. The Mustangs were also dispatched by the Highlanders during the 2008 (62-54) and 2004 (72-63) opening rounds.

MUSTANGS ENJOY ANOTHER HISTORY-MAKING SEASON DURING 2011-12 CAMPAIGN: Cal Poly cemented the No. 4 seed for the Big West Tournament by prevailing against UC Davis (69-56) and Pacific (67-38) during the final week of regular season play – a pair of wins that position the 2011-12 Mustang squad with the second-highest victory total in 18 Division I seasons. Overall, Cal Poly's 17 victories rank as the highest total since the 2006-07 side finished 19-11. The Mustangs earned the No. 4 seed for the Big West Tournament after finishing in the top half of the conference standings for the first time in consecutive seasons since the 2005-06 and 2006-07 campaigns.

MUSTANGS BOAST STIFLING DEFENSE: Cal Poly enters the Big West Tournament ranked 31st among NCAA programs in opponent points per game (60.6) as well as leading the Big West in opponent rebounds per game (29.3). The Mustangs have twice held an opponent under 40 points this year. Cal Poly's 42-36 victory at USC (Nov. 19) marked the fewest points scored by a Mustang opponent in 18 Division I seasons. More recently, Cal Poly's 67-38 triumph against Pacific (March 3) was the second-lowest opponent output in Division I history. This year, the Mustangs have held foes under 60 points during 15 of 31 games and under a 30 percent mark from three-point range a further 13 times.

MUSTANGS DOMINATE OPPONENTS ON THE GLASS: Cal Poly has grabbed the same amount of boards or outrebounded its opponent during 26 of 31 games this year, mass production that has the Mustangs ranked 33rd nationally and second among Big West squads in rebounding margin (plus-5.2) entering the Big West Tournament. Not surprisingly, Cal Poly is 15-7 this season when outrebounding the opposition with the only defeats coming at DePaul (Dec. 21), versus UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 2, Feb. 25) and Long Beach State (Jan. 5, Jan. 19) and at UC Riverside (Jan. 14) and CSU Bakersfield (Feb. 4).

POSSESSION IS NINE-TENTHS OF THE WIN: Cal Poly enters the Big West Tournament ranked 15th among NCAA programs and first among Big West squads with just 10.8 turnovers committed per game. Also 38th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.17-to-1), the Mustangs have finished with a single-digit turnover total 12 times this season.

CAL POLY'S 20-20 VISION: Through 31 contests this season, no Cal Poly player has scored 20 points during a game. During the course of the season, three different Mustangs have registered 19 points in a game: Will Taylor (vs. Menlo College, Dec. 14), Chris Eversley (vs. Cal State Northridge, Jan. 21) and David Hanson (at Pacific, Jan. 26). Additionally, Cal Poly players have posted an 18-point game seven separate times.

TAYLOR RISES TO THE OCCASION AS A SENIOR: Backed by a team-leading five double-doubles this season, senior forward Will Taylor enters the Big West Tournament ranked second among conference players with a 53.7 (124-for-231) percent field goal mark and fourth with 6.8 rebounds per game. A starter during all 31 of Cal Poly's contests after redshirting last season, Taylor has grabbed seven-plus rebounds in a game 16 times this year, recorded double-digit scoring figures 15 times and shot higher than 60 percent from the floor on 13 occasions.

THE EVOLUTION OF CHRIS EVERSLEY: Sophomore forward Chris Eversley had recorded just 52 points during his initial 15 contests as a Mustang, but the Chicago native and 2010 transfer from Rice has registered double-digit scoring figures during 12 of the program's previous 16 outings and, since Jan. 7, leads Cal Poly with 12.8 points per game. A starter during eight of Cal Poly's previous 10 games after scoring a career-high 19 points against Cal State Northridge (Jan. 21), Eversley's latest highlight effort was a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double against Pacific (March 3). Also a menace on the boards, Eversley's first collegiate double-double – an 11-point, 14-rebound effort against UC Riverside (Feb. 9) – included the highest single-game rebounding total by a Mustang this season. In total this year, Eversley has produced seven games of 15-plus points and six contests of nine-plus rebounds.

FERMIN FORGES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: Arguably the Big West's most efficient point guard, senior Amaurys Fermin enters the Big West Tournament leading all conference players in assists (114), ranked second in assists per game (3.68) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.61-to-1). Fermin, who dispatched a career-high eight assists at DePaul (Dec. 21) and matched it at Northern Colorado (Feb. 18), also ranks second among Mustangs with 16 double-digit scoring games and third with 9.6 points per contest. After redshirting the 2009-10 (transfer) and 2010-11 (injury) seasons, Fermin has started all 31 games for Cal Poly this year.

ROYER'S CATCH AND RELEASE POLICY: The Big West's top three-point threat with a 48.3 (70-for-145) percent mark from the arc, junior guard Dylan Royer would rank second among approximately 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). Royer's latest highlight effort from the arc came against UC Davis (March 1), when he sank four three-pointers for the fourth time this season. Fifth among Mustangs with 7.8 points per contest, Royer has hit at least one three-pointer during 29 of 31 games this season and knocked down multiple three-pointers 22 times. Royer, who scored 41 combined points between his freshman and sophomore seasons, has registered 241 as a junior. He's also started during 20 of 31 games this year after making just 28 combined appearances (without a start) during his first two seasons.

HANSON'S HIGHLIGHT EFFORTS: Cal Poly's leader with 22 double-digit scoring games after notching just four total points during the program's opening two contests, senior forward David Hanson – a 2011-12 All-Big West second team selection and the program's all-time leader with 120 appearances – enters his final conference tournament also leading the Mustangs with 11.5 points per contest and ranked second with five double-doubles. Hanson, second among Mustangs with 5.3 rebounds per game, has recorded double-digit scoring figures during 13 of Cal Poly's previous 17 games.

MUSTANGS FACED NATION'S FINEST IN 2011-12: In what has become a hallmark of head coach Joe Callero's three-season tenure, Cal Poly again faced another testing schedule during the 2011-12 regular season campaign. Should Cal Poly face either Long Beach State or UC Santa Barbara during the Big West Tournament, the matchup will mark the ninth contest this season that the Mustangs will have played against a program that qualified for either the 2011 NCAA Tournament or NIT.

MUSTANGS PRESERVE HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Cal Poly's successful regular season was built upon a dominating home record with the Mustangs finishing 10-4 in Mott Gym and limiting the opposition to 58.4 points per game. Cal Poly's 14 home games during the regular season were 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 23-14 overall mark in Mott Gym and a 15-9 home record against Big West opposition.

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 victories when trailing at halftime this season came at USC on Nov. 19 (trailed, 20-13) and at UC Davis on Jan. 28 (trailed, 39-25) … 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) … 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 … Cal Poly's 65-50 triumph at UC Irvine (Jan. 12) marked the program's 100th Big West victory … Cal Poly broke a 23-year-old program record for single-game free throw shooting by sinking 16 of 17 (94.1 percent) attempts during a 77-74 victory against UC Irvine (Feb. 11).