COMPLETE WEEKLY PREVIEW (pdf)
SAN LUIS OBISPO – The Cal Poly men's basketball program closes its 29-game regular season schedule when hosting UC Irvine (Thursday, March 7) and UC Santa Barbara (Saturday, March 9). Tip time from Mott Athletics Center both evenings is 7 p.m. for Cal Poly (6-21, 2-12), which enters the final week of play trailing eighth-place UC Riverside (9-21, 3-11) by just a game in the Big West standings. The Highlanders, who close their regular season at Long Beach State (March 6) and at UC Davis (March 9), control the final spot for the March 14-16 Big West Tournament in Anaheim. Having already claimed the regular season title and No. 1 seed for the Big West Tournament, UC Irvine (25-5, 13-1) – winners of 11 straight matchups – allows a Big West low 63.2 points per game. Third-place UC Santa Barbara (19-9, 8-6) trails only UC Irvine in allowing just 65.2 points per game.
FOLLOW CAL POLY THIS WEEK: Chris Sylvester will have the play-by-play call of Thursday's game versus UC Irvine and Saturday's matchup against UC Santa Barbara for ESPN 1280 in San Luis Obispo County and via GoPoly.com HERE … live stats and streaming video of both games will also be available via GoPoly.com HERE.
HOW CAL POLY CAN QUALIFY FOR THE BIG WEST TOURNAMENT: With Cal Poly and UC Riverside competing for the No. 8 seed and final spot in the Big West Tournament, the Mustangs still have four routes into the postseason:
1. Should Cal Poly win twice and UC Riverside lose twice, Cal Poly would leapfrog UC Riverside for eighth place;
2. Should Cal Poly and UC Riverside finish tied with four Big West victories, the Mustangs would claim the No. 8 seed for the Big West Tournament by virtue of having defeated the highest team in the standings in UC Irvine;
3. Should Cal Poly and UC Riverside finish tied with three Big West victories (and Cal Poly's third win is against UC Irvine), the Mustangs would claim the No. 8 seed for the Big West Tournament by virtue of having defeated UC Irvine;
4. Should Cal Poly and UC Riverside finish tied with three Big West victories (and Cal Poly's third win is against UC Santa Barbara), a coin flip will be used to determine the No. 8 seed (both Cal Poly and UC Riverside would have defeated the same Big West opponents, exhausting all remaining tiebreaking scenarios).
CAL POLY VERSUS UC IRVINE: Following a 74-47 home victory (Feb. 21), the Anteaters have won nine of the last 10 matchups versus the Mustangs. Cal Poly also looks to snap a five-year home slide against UC Irvine dating to a Jan. 5, 2013 triumph. UC Irvine leads both the all-time (34-22) and Division I (30-19) series.
CAL POLY VERSUS UC SANTA BARBARA: Cal Poly has won just one of its last four home matchups versus UC Santa Barbara, overturning a 21-point, first-half deficit to edge the Gauchos, 80-79 (Jan. 4, 2018). The Gauchos won this year's season series opener, 65-56. The most frequent opponent in Cal Poly's program history, UC Santa Barbara leads lead both the all-time (73-35) and Division I (39-14) series.
FIELDS REMAINS CAL POLY'S CATALYST: One of Cal Poly's top two scorers during each of his three seasons as a Mustang, senior guard Donovan Fields enters Thursday's game versus UC Irvine ranked sixth among Big West players with a team leading 16.7 points per game. Topped by career high 30-point efforts versus Menlo College (Nov. 7) and CSUN (Jan. 12), 28-point showings against Bethune-Cookman (Dec. 8) and Hawai'i (Feb. 23), a 27-point game at Long Beach State (March 2) and a 26-point performance at California (Dec. 15), Fields has scored 20-plus points 10 times this year and chalked up a team leading 21 double-digit scoring games. He also owns six of the top seven scoring games by a Mustang this season. The second leading free throw shooter in Cal Poly program history at 86.8 (211-for-243) percent, Fields is averaging 13.5 career points per game and has scored in double figures 59 times in 89 (66.3 percent) Division I appearances. One of only 24 players in program history to score 1,000 career points (and having reached the mark in three years), Fields currently ranks 11th all-time with 1,203 points. Also one of the top ball-handlers in Cal Poly history, Fields is fifth among Big West players at 4.0 assists per game and seventh in program history with 294 career assists. Regarding steals, Fields ranks fifth in the Big West at 1.4 per game and is one of only eight players in program history to record at least 100 during a career (currently 107).
GARRICK SETS THE SCORING TONE: A 30-point effort at Long Beach State (March 2) marked guard Marcellus Garrick's new career scoring high while helping the senior match the single-game scoring high by a Mustang this season. Second in Cal Poly's lineup at 11.0 points per game and third with 15 double-digit scoring games, Garrick has scored 15-plus points in a game 11 times this year. A starter in 23 of 27 games, Garrick has sunk multiple three-pointers in a game 15 times.
AS THE CROWE LETS IT FLY: Now ranked 45th among NCAA Division I players with a 40.9 (54-for-132) percent three-point mark, sophomore wing Mark Crowe has emerged as Cal Poly's third leading scorer at 9.9 points per game. Also second among Mustangs with 16 double-digit scoring games, Crowe scored a career best 22 points at Fresno State (Dec. 1) while notching 18 versus UTA (Dec. 21) and 16 at UC Davis (Jan. 19). Crowe has also knocked down multiple three-pointers in 17 of 27 games.
JOB WELL DONE: Having recorded just 42 points during his first 15 games as a Mustang, junior guard Job Alexander – in his last 10 outings – has averaged 8.8 points per game and produced all five of his double-digit scoring efforts. Alexander, who has twice scored a career high 15 points at UC Riverside (Jan. 31) and at Cal State Fullerton (Feb. 28), is shooting 45.3 percent this season. He's now started Cal Poly's last nine games.
HOLLINGSWORTH ON THE BLOCK: The fourth leading shot blocker in program history with 107 career blocks, junior forward Hank Hollingsworth requires just 30 more to overtake the program record of 136 established by Varnie Dennis (2000-04). This season, he ranks fifth among Big West players at 1.0 blocks per game. Also the second leading shooter in program history at 59.6 (112-for-188) percent, Hollingsworth chalked up his third career double-double with career highs for points (14) and rebounds (12) versus USC Upstate (Nov. 24). He also recorded 12 points at Siena (Dec. 29) and grabbed 10 boards against CSUN (Jan. 12). On the boards, Hollingsworth leads Cal Poly and ranks 15th among Big West players with 4.7 rebounds per game.
INTO THE NIGHT: Through 27 games, Cal Poly – alongside SIU-Edwardsville – leads all 351 Division I teams with a program record five overtime games (the Mustangs are 2-3). Dating to last year, Cal Poly has played 10 overtime periods in its last 31 games.
CAL POLY'S QUALITY CONTROL: No Division I program has committed fewer turnovers per game since the beginning of the 2012-13 season than Cal Poly, which has averaged just 10.21 turnovers per 214 matchups (2,184 turnovers total). Cal Poly has led the Big West in fewest turnovers per game in five of the last six years and ranks third this season at just 11.9 per night. Nationally, the Mustangs rank 72nd this season among 351 Division I programs.
ETC.: The 13,995-fan attendance figure for Cal Poly's Nov. 11 game at Arizona marked the largest crowd for a Mustangs game since 17,995 fans packed the Scottrade Center in St. Louis for the program's 2014 NCAA Tournament second round matchup versus Wichita State (March 21, 2014) … Cal Poly's scheduled Nov. 16 game at Sacramento State was postponed due to continued poor air quality related to the Camp Fire (a makeup date has not yet been announced) … Cal Poly's Nov. 19 matchup at Washington State marked the program's first and only meeting against the Cougars since Feb. 10, 1976 and leaves Oregon (one all-time meeting) as the least frequent Pac-12 Conference opponent in Mustang history … Cal Poly's six-game road trip from Nov. 11-Dec. 1 marked the fourth time in five years the Mustangs embarked on a road trip of six games or lengthier … tenth-year head coach Joe Callero moved into sole possession of third place on the Cal Poly career victories chart with his 122nd win as Mustang head coach during the program's Nov. 24 triumph versus USC Upstate. Having surpassed Steve Beason (1986-95) for third place in program history, Callero ranks 18th in career victories in Big West Conference history … Cal Poly's 80-78 home win versus Bethune-Cookman marked the program's first victory versus a MEAC program … Cal Poly's Dec. 29 matchup at Siena marked the program's first game in New York state in 59 seasons and first game against a MAAC opponent since visiting Saint Peter's on Dec. 14, 1973 … Cal Poly improved to 40-1 against non-Division I programs with its 68-47 win versus Holy Names (Cal Poly transitioned to Division I prior to the 1994-95 season) … Cal Poly's Jan. 31 game at UC Riverside marked head coach Joe Callero's 300th game with the Mustangs. He's just the third person in Cal Poly program history to coach 300-plus games … Cal State Fullerton's 49 free throw attempts (Feb. 28) set a new single game record by a Mustang opponent (Seattle previously attempted 48 on Dec. 3, 2009) while the 35 conversions by the Titans tied the opponent single game record (set by UC Irvine on March 6, 2010).