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Cal Poly Meets UC Irvine Friday in Big West Tournament Semifinal

Cal Poly Meets UC Irvine Friday in Big West Tournament Semifinal



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vs. No. 1 UC Irvine (23-10) – Friday, March 14 (6:30 p.m.)
Big West Conference Tournament Semifinal
Honda Center (Anaheim, Calif.)
Television: (live) HERE, ESPNU (tape delayed) / Mark Jones (play-by-play), Miles Simon (color commentary)
Audio: HERE (Worldwide), ESPN 1280 (San Luis Obispo County) / Tom Barket (play-by-play)
Live Stats / ESPN3 Video Stream:
Series Record: UC Irvine, 24-20
Division I Series Record: UC Irvine, 21-17
2013-14 Season Series: UC Irvine, 2-0
Winning Streak: UC Irvine, 3
Last Meeting: March 1, 2014 (UCI, 55-48, at UCI)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Back in the Big West Conference Tournament semifinal round for a program-record third successive season, the seventh-seeded Cal Poly men's basketball team looks to return to the championship game for the first time in seven years when squaring off against No. 1 UC Irvine on Friday, March 14. Tip time inside the Honda Center is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. with the matchup airing live on and tape delayed on ESPNU. The Mustangs (11-19) advanced to Friday's first semifinal by rolling past second-seeded UC Santa Barbara on Thursday, 69-38, while UC Irvine (23-10) reached its third straight semifinal appearance by topping No. 8 UC Riverside, 63-43. No. 3 Long Beach State (15-16) will meet No. 5 Cal State Northridge (17-17) in Friday's remaining 9 p.m. semifinal. Cal Poly has never won the Big West Tournament and only twice advanced to the championship game (2003, 2007). The Mustangs have faced UC Irvine just twice prior in 12 Big West Tournament appearances. The last matchup occurred on March 10, 2010 with Cal Poly eliminating the Anteaters during the opening round, 73-69.

LOOKING AHEAD: The winners from Friday's two semifinal matchups will contest Saturday's championship bout, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The selection show for the 2014 NCAA Tournament will air on CBS on Sunday, March 16 at 3 p.m. PT. The NCAA Tournament gets underway with the First Four, scheduled for March 18-19 at the UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio. The second and third rounds are slated for March 20-23 at eight sites: Buffalo, Milwaukee, Orlando, Spokane, Wash., Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio, San Diego and St. Louis. The regionals will play out March 27-30 at Memphis, Anaheim, New York City and Indianapolis with the Final Four scheduled for April 5 and 7 in Arlington, Texas.

2014 Big West Conference Tournament
Friday, March 14 (Semifinal)
No. 7 Cal Poly (11-19) vs. No. 1 UC Irvine (23-10), 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
No. 3 Long Beach State (15-16) vs. No. 5 Cal State Northridge (17-17), 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

Saturday, March 15 (Championship / ESPN2, ESPN3)
Remaining Seeds, 7:30 p.m.

HOW TO ENJOY MUSTANG BASKETBALL 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 at HERE. Live stats for each tournament game will also be available through Friday's semifinal against UC Irvine will be broadcasted live on HERE and tape delayed on ESPNU with Mark Jones providing play-by-play and Miles Simon color commentary.

A DAY TO REMEMBER: During their 69-38 quarterfinal victory against UC Santa Barbara on Thursday, Cal Poly established a handful of numerous distinctions. Most notably:
– Cal Poly held an opponent under 40 points for the first time since topping Pacific 67-38 on March 3, 2012.
– The 38 points scored by UC Santa Barbara were the fewest by a team at the Big West Tournament since Utah State defeated Pacific in the 2001 title game, 50-38.
– Cal Poly recorded its largest margin of victory at the Big West Tournament.
– Under fifth-year Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero, Cal Poly has now won its opening game in the Big West Tournament four times.

CAL POLY VERSUS UC IRVINE: Winners of three straight against the Mustangs, UC Irvine swept Cal Poly during the regular season, producing a 64-50 triumph in San Luis Obispo (Feb. 1) and a 55-48 victory in Irvine (March 1). The two programs have met just twice prior at the Big West Tournament – both times in the first round – with UC Irvine eliminating Cal Poly in 2001 (71-66) and the Mustangs ousting the Anteaters in 2010 (71-67). UC Irvine leads both the all-time (24-20) and Division I (21-17) series.

NO BETTER TIME LIKE THE PRESENT: The lowest seed to have ever won the Big West Tournament was San Jose State, which was seeded No. 6 in 1996. The Spartans won three times in three days to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

NO BETTER TIME LIKE THE PRESENT, PART II: Of the four teams comprising Friday's two semifinal matchups, two programs – Cal Poly and UC Irvine – have never appeared in the NCAA Division I Tournament.

CAL POLY VERSUS THE REMAINING BIG WEST FIELD: Against the three remaining programs in the Big West Tournament, Cal Poly dropped both ends of the 2013-14 season series against No. 1 UC Irvine and No. 3 Long Beach State, but swept the season series from No. 5 Cal State Northridge.

CAL POLY AT THE BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: Including Thursday's 69-38 quarterfinal victory against UC Santa Barbara, the Mustangs are 8-11 in 12 appearances at 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 third-seeded Utah State. Seeded second in 2007, Cal Poly trounced Cal State Fullerton during the semifinals (81-56) before falling in the championship versus top-seeded Long Beach State (94-83). Cal Poly has also advanced as far as the semifinals in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2013. Cal Poly's three semifinal losses occurred in 2006, when the fourth-seeded Mustangs fell versus No. 1 Pacific (68-57); 2012, when fourth-seeded Cal Poly dropped a 64-52 decision against No. 2 UC Santa Barbara and last season, when a last-second Pacific shot eliminated third-seeded Cal Poly, 55-53. Overall, Cal Poly is 7-5 during its first tournament game and 2-3 in semifinal matchups.

STOPPAGE TIME: Cal Poly finished the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons as one of the top-25 defensive teams in Division I and the Mustangs have kept up their stifling ways this year. Ranked 37th nationally and the Big West leader with just 63.8 points allowed per game, Cal Poly has held an opponent under 65 points in 18 of 30 games this year and in 32 of the past 46 contests dating to the 2012-13 season.

EVERSLEY CAL POLY'S CONSTANT CATALYST: Named to the All-Big West second team on Monday, senior forward Chris Eversley enters Friday's semifinal ranked sixth among conference players with 7.2 rebounds per game and 11th with 13.4 points per contest. Also fifth among Big West players with 42 steals, Eversley has posted 20 double-digit scoring games this season to up his career total to 54. He has also compiled five double-doubles during the 2013-14 season to push his career total to 13. Eversley's season scoring high was a 25-point effort at Stanford (Dec. 29) while his rebounding best was a 15-board haul versus Santa Clara (Dec. 7). Eversley, who has started 61 of Cal Poly's last 64 games dating to the 2011-12 season, has grabbed seven-plus rebounds in a game 16 times this season.

EVERSLEY CONTINUES TO MAKE HISTORY: One of the top all-around competitors in Cal Poly program history, Chris Eversley became the 21st Mustang to reach 1,000 career points after scoring 17 against UC Davis (Jan. 30). Currently 15th all-time with 1,136 points in just three years, Eversley also ranks ninth in program history with 583 rebounds and, for his career, is averaging 12.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per 94 games as a Mustang.

NWABA TRANSFERS SUCCESS IN 2013-14: Tenth among Big West players and ranked 79th in Division I with a 50.0 (122-for-239) percent field goal mark, sophomore wing David Nwaba has shot higher than 70 percent from the floor in nine games this season and enters Friday's semifinal second among Mustangs with 11.6 points per contest. An offseason transfer from Santa Monica College, Nwaba's latest highlight effort was a 20-point, career-best 13-rebound first collegiate double-double at UC Irvine (March 1). This year, Nwaba has scored 22 points against Cal State Dominguez Hills (Dec. 14), 21 points versus Santa Clara (Dec. 7), 17 against Hawai'i (Jan. 9) and at UC Riverside (Jan. 25) and notched 12 in his Cal Poly debut at No. 5/6 Arizona (Nov. 8). Nwaba, who has started 25 of 30 games for Cal Poly this year, has compiled 19 double-digit scoring games.

JOHNSON FORGES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: Solidified by a seven-assist performance against Nevada (Nov. 12) and six versus Hawai'i (Jan. 9), Cal State Northridge (Jan. 16) and at UC Davis (Feb. 27), senior guard Jamal Johnson enters Friday's semifinal third among Big West players in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.34-to-1) and 11th in assists per game (2.73). Johnson, who posted a 3.07-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 16 Big West contests this year, has committed just five turnovers in Cal Poly's last 11 games. Ranked seventh in Cal Poly program history with 291 assists, Johnson owns a career 2.01-to-1 (291-to-145) assist-to-turnover ratio. Offensively, Johnson scored a career-high 15 points against Hawai'i (Jan. 9), added 13 points versus North Dakota (Nov. 29) and 12 at Cal State Fullerton (Jan. 23) to solidify three Cal Poly wins.

ODISTER PROPELS CAL POLY'S LONG-RANGE GAME: Fueled by a season-high 21-point effort at No. 5/6 Arizona (Nov. 8) that included a career-best seven three-pointers, 14-point games versus Cal State Northridge (Jan. 16, Feb. 13) and a 13-point performance at Pitt (Dec. 21), senior guard Kyle Odister enters Friday's semifinal third among Mustangs with 9.5 points per contest. Also fourth among Big West players with 2.3 three-pointers per game and eighth with a 36.4 (56-for-154) percent three-point mark, Odister is a 39.1 (170-for-435) percent career three-point shooter. His 170 career three-pointers rank as the fifth-best total in Mustang program history while his 435 attempts are sixth.

AWICH OUT OF THE STARTING BLOCKS: A starter in 13 of Cal Poly's last 18 games, sophomore forward Joel Awich enters Friday's semifinal ranked fifth among Big West players with 1.03 blocks per game. Already this season, Awich has blocked a career-best four shots against Cal State Northridge (Jan. 16) and added three versus Long Beach State (Jan. 18) and at Pitt (Dec. 21). With a team-leading 31 blocks – the highest total by a Mustang in five years – Awich, in just one-and-a-half collegiate seasons, already ranks eighth in program history with 45 blocks. Offensively, Awich's standout game this year is a career-best 11-point performance at Stanford (Dec. 29).

JOIN CAL POLY MEN'S BASKETBALL, SEE THE WORLD: Few teams, if any, have logged more miles this year than Cal Poly, which enters Friday's semifinal having covered approximately 23,095 miles during the 2013-14 season. Cal Poly's schedule has included two trips to the east coast (Pittsburgh, Delaware), one to Hawai'i, games in six different states (including the program's first appearances in Pennsylvania and Delaware) and four first-time opponents (Oregon, Pitt, Delaware and Bethesda).

ETC.: Cal Poly fell to 8-12 in season-opening contests at the Division I level, 2-9 in road season openers and 2-3 in season openers under fifth-year head coach Joe Callero following a 72-63 loss at No. 5 Arizona (Nov. 8) ... Cal Poly's season opener at No. 5 Arizona (Nov. 8) came against the highest ranked opponent in Mustang program history ... Cal Poly's Nov. 8 matchup at Arizona's McKale Center drew 14,545 spectators, the largest attendance figure for a Mustang men's basketball game since 17,230 fans packed Wisconsin's Kohl Center on Dec. 16, 2009 ... Cal Poly's 60-58 loss against Nevada (Nov. 12) snapped a 12-game home winning streak inside the Mott Athletics Center ... the 39 points allowed to Bethesda (Nov. 23) were the fewest by a Mustang opponent since Cal Poly topped Pacific at home on March 3, 2012 (67-38) ... during the victory against Bethesda, the Flames failed to attempt a free throw – the first time the feat had occurred under Joe Callero ... Cal Poly's Nov. 29 contest against North Dakota marked Joe Callero's 400th NCAA game as a head coach ... Cal Poly improved to 31-1 against non-Division I opposition and 6-1 under Joe Callero with an 85-49 victory against Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills (Dec. 14) ... Cal Poly's 73-56 loss at Pitt (Dec. 21) marked the program's first game in the state of Pennsylvania and just the third overall game against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent ... Cal Poly's 82-72 loss at Delaware (Jan. 4) marked the program's first game in the state of Delaware ... Cal Poly improved to 7-11 all-time in Big West openers, 3-7 in Big West openers at home and 3-2 in Big West openers under Joe Callero following a 77-65 triumph against Hawai'i (Jan. 9) ... Cal Poly's 63-62 home loss against Long Beach State (Jan. 18) snapped a program-record 16-game home winning streak against Big West opponents ... the 3,032-fan figure for Cal Poly's Feb. 2 home game against UC Irvine marked the first sellout inside the Mott Athletics Center since a Jan. 2, 2012 matchup versus UC Santa Barbara (a streak of 29 home games) ... Cal Poly's four-game losing streak inside the Mott Athletics Center (Jan. 18-Feb. 20) was the program's lengthiest since dropping six successive home games from Dec. 28, 2008 to Feb. 18, 2009 ... the 13 three-pointers allowed to UC Davis (Feb. 27) were the highest total by a Mustang opponent since Wisconsin sank 13 on Dec. 16, 2009 – a span of 144 games