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Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge Meet in Big West Tournament Championship

Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge Meet in Big West Tournament Championship

COMPLETE GAME PREVIEW (pdf)

BIG WEST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT MEDIA GUIDE

Next: No. 5 Cal State Northridge (17-17) – Saturday, March 15 (7:30 p.m.)
Big West Conference Tournament Championship
Honda Center (Anaheim, Calif.)
Television: ESPN2, ESPN3.com HERE / Mark Jones (play-by-play), Miles Simon (color commentary)
Audio: GoPoly.com HERE (Worldwide), ESPN 1280 (San Luis Obispo County) / Tom Barket (play-by-play)
Live Stats / ESPN3 Video Stream: GoPoly.com HERE
Series Record: Cal Poly, 50-43
Division I Series Record: Cal State Northridge, 19-13
2013-14 Season Series: Cal Poly, 2
Winning Streak: Cal Poly, 4
Last Meeting: Feb. 13, 2014 (CP, 62-55, at CSUN)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Just twice prior in its 20-year Division I tenure has the Cal Poly men's basketball team advanced to the Big West Conference Tournament championship game but, Saturday evening, the seventh-seeded Mustangs have the opportunity to become the first squad in program history to reach the NCAA Division I Tournament when squaring off against No. 5 Cal State Northridge. Tip time for the 2014 Big West Tournament title game is set for 7:30 p.m. with action televised on ESPN2 and streamed online via ESPN3.com. Cal Poly (12-19), which also reached the tournament finale in 2003 and 2007, advanced to the 2014 championship game by throttling No. 2 UC Santa Barbara (69-38) on Thursday and edging top-seeded UC Irvine (61-58) on Friday. Cal State Northridge (17-17), which won the Big West Tournament title in 2009, reached Saturday's finale by ousting No. 4 Hawai'i (87-84) on Thursday and No. 3 Long Beach State (82-77) on Friday. Cal Poly has never faced Cal State Northridge in 12 Big West Tournament appearances dating to 2001. With a victory on Saturday, Cal Poly can become the lowest seed in the 39-year history of the Big West Tournament to win the title.

HOW TO ENJOY MUSTANG BASKETBALL AT THE BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: Tom Barket returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail for Saturday's Big West Tournament championship game on ESPN 1280 in San Luis Obispo County and online at GoPoly.com HERE. Live stats will also be available through GoPoly.com HERE. Saturday's championship will be televised on ESPN2 and streamed on ESPN3.com HERE with Mark Jones providing play-by-play and Miles Simon color commentary.

LOOKING AHEAD: 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.

CAL POLY VERSUS CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE: The Mustangs enter Saturday's Big West Tournament championship having swept the last two season series against the Matadors. During the regular season, Cal Poly outdueled the Matadors in San Luis Obispo (62-52) on Jan. 16 and Northridge (62-55) on Feb. 13. Cal Poly leads the all-time series (50-43), but Cal State Northridge leads the series (19-13) at the Division I level.

MUSTANGS CONTINUE TO MAKE HISTORY AT THE BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: In topping No. 1 UC Irvine during Friday's semifinal round, Cal Poly established a new set of conference distinctions, namely:
– becoming the first No. 7 seed in the 39-year history of the Big West Tournament to beat a No. 1;
– becoming the first No. 7 seed to win a semifinal game since Fresno State reached the 1991 final;
– becoming the lowest-seeded team to play for the Big West Tournament title since 10th-seeded UC Irvine lost the 1994 final to No. 1 New Mexico State and;
– becoming the lowest-seeded team in the history of the tournament to eliminate both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.

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.

IT'S BEEN AWHILE: While Cal Poly made its first postseason appearance at the Division I level last year in qualifying for the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, the Mustangs need to go back to the 1985-86 season for the program's last NCAA Tournament appearance. After winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association regular season title and falling in the conference tournament title game, the 1985-86 Mustangs received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The Mustangs, however, dropped both the semifinal and consolation matchups at the NCAA Tournament West Regional in Hayward, Calif. Cal Poly's last postseason victory was a 66-60 win against Alaska-Anchorage during the semifinals of the 1981-82 NCAA Division II Tournament West Regional in Bakersfield, Calif.

POSSESSION IS NINE-TENTHS OF THE VICTORY: Ranked first among Big West programs with 9.0 turnovers committed per game and fourth among NCAA Division I programs with just 280 total turnovers, Cal Poly enters Saturday's tournament finale having committed just 11 turnovers in two tournament games. Cal Poly committed just five turnovers in Thursday's quarterfinal win and six on Friday in the semifinal.

CAL POLY AT THE BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: Including Thursday's 69-38 quarterfinal victory against UC Santa Barbara and Friday's 61-58 semifinal triumph versus UC Irvine, the Mustangs are 9-11 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, 2013 and 2014. 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 3-3 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 63.6 points allowed per game, Cal Poly has held an opponent under 65 points in 19 of 31 games this year and in 33 of the past 47 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 Saturday's Big West Tournament championship 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 21 double-digit scoring games this season – including 14 points during Friday's semifinal victory against UC Irvine – to up his career total to 55. 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 62 of Cal Poly's last 65 games dating to the 2011-12 season, has grabbed seven-plus rebounds in a game 17 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 14th all-time with 1,150 points in just three years, Eversley also ranks ninth in program history with 590 rebounds and, for his career, is averaging 12.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per 95 games as a Mustang.

NWABA TRANSFERS SUCCESS IN 2013-14: Tenth among Big West players and ranked 68th in Division I with a 51.6 (126-for-244) percent field goal mark, sophomore wing David Nwaba has shot higher than 70 percent from the floor in 10 games this season and enters Saturday's Big West Tournament championship second among Mustangs with 11.7 points per contest. An offseason transfer from Santa Monica College, Nwaba's latest highlight effort was a 12-point effort during Friday's semifinal triumph against top-seeded UC Irvine. This year, Nwaba has scored 22 points against UC Irvine (March 1) and 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 26 of 31 games for Cal Poly this year, has compiled 20 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 Saturday's Big West Tournament championship fifth among Big West players in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.38-to-1) and 11th in assists per game (2.77). Johnson, who posted a 3.07-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 16 Big West contests this year, has committed just six turnovers in Cal Poly's last 12 games. Ranked seventh in Cal Poly program history with 295 assists, Johnson owns a career 2.02-to-1 (295-to-146) 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 Saturday's Big West Tournament championship third among Mustangs with 9.5 points per contest. Also third among Big West players with 2.4 three-pointers per game and seventh with a 37.3 (59-for-158) percent three-point mark, Odister is a 39.4 (173-for-439) percent career three-point shooter. His 173 career three-pointers rank as the fifth-best total in Mustang program history while his 439 attempts are sixth.

AWICH OUT OF THE STARTING BLOCKS: A starter in 14 of Cal Poly's last 19 games, sophomore forward Joel Awich enters Saturday's Big West Tournament championship ranked fifth among Big West players with 1.00 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 Saturday's Big West Tournament championship 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.

Photo courtesy of Ian Billings / Mustang News