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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly continues its four-game road trip this week, as the Mustang women's basketball team visits Fresno State at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Save Mart Center before traveling to San Francisco for a 2 p.m. tipoff Sunday at The Sobrato Center.
Fresno State, which returned the Mountain West Conference's leading scorer in senior Candice White (who averaged 19.3 points per game a year ago), opened the season at Northern Arizona on Nov. 6, falling 86-73 in Flagstaff.
Sophomore forward Maddi Utti scored a team-high 25 points at NAU for Fresno State, which finished 17-15 in 2018 while advancing to the WBI quarterfinals. The two programs haven't met in three years, with the Mustangs winning a close matchup in their last encounter (December 2015), 64-60, placing the Bulldogs' all-time advantage in the series at 25-10.
San Francisco opened its season with an 85-63 home win over San Jose State on Nov. 9. Shannon Powell led five Dons scoring in double-figures with 17 points and seven assists. Meanwhile Lucija Kostic added 11 points and eight rebounds in the balanced attack for USF, which went 16-15 on the way to the semifinals of the 2018 WCC Tournament.
The Mustangs and Dons actually met twice in non-conference play a year ago, with USF winning 83-71 in the Bay Area before Cal Poly won 88-83 in San Luis Obispo to improve to 9-15 against USF all-time.
STANBACK NEARLY AVERAGING 25 POINTS THROUGH OPENING WEEK: Cal Poly (1-2) began the season with a trio of first-week matchups, topping Academy of Art U on Nov. 6, 87-65, before falling 79-54 at No. 8-ranked Oregon State this past Friday night and then 88-85 at Sacramento State on Sunday.
Senior center Devin Stanback led the Mustangs in the opening week, averaging 24.7 points on .585 shooting (31-of-53) along with 7.7 rebounds and 1.0 block per game.
Her average just under 25.0 per game led the Big West Conference after three games, in addition to ranking 27th in the country early on. Her 31 made field goals through a week of play also rank No. 2 nationally.
Stanback ranked eighth in the Big West in offensive rebounds per game (2.2) last year, in addition to 12th throughout the conference in field-goal percentage (.465) while ranking third on the team in scoring with 8.2 points per game.
NUNNELLEY POSTS CAREER-HIGH 17 REBOUNDS: Mustang senior forward Katie Nunnelley corralled a career-best 17 rebounds at Sacramento State on Nov. 11. The most rebounds by a Mustang since Hannah Gilbert secured 18 at UC Irvine on Jan. 9, 2016, Nunnelley's effort was also just seven boards back of the single-game school record (24, by Sherrie Atteberry in 1987).
Nunnelley's early average of 9.7 per game ranks No. 4 in the Big West through three games.
HOLIDAY BEACH CLASSIC SET FOR NOV. 23-24: Cal Poly will return to Mott Athletics Center to host the 12th annual ShareSLO Holiday Beach Classic. The schedule for the Thanksgiving weekend tournament, which features free admission for the entire community, is listed below:
Fri., Nov. 23
2 p.m. • Illinois at Cal Poly
4:30 p.m. • Pepperdine vs. Sacramento State
Sat., Nov. 24
2 p.m. • Sacramento State vs. Illinois
4:30 p.m. • Pepperdine at Cal Poly
FRESHMEN IMPACT: A duo of Cal Poly freshmen have each had 15-plus-point games already.
Gianna Silvestri netted 15 points — entirely from behind the arc in her first collegiate game — leading the Mustangs to an 87-65 win over Academy of Art U (as the grad of Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco finished 5-of-9 from 3-point range in her debut) Nov. 6, before Maddie Willett of Gig Harbor (Wash.) High scored 19 at Sacramento State Nov. 11.
Through three games, Willett (8.7 points per game), Silvestri (6.0) and fellow freshman Alli Hallberg (4.7) from Wenatchee High in Washington are combining to average 19.4 points, as the trio rank among the Mustangs' top seven scorers so far.
STAHLEY, STANBACK LEAD 7 RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: The Mustangs returned seven letterwinners from last year's squad that finished second in the Big West standings at 11-5 en route to a semifinals appearance at the conference tournament, going 17-12 overall.
They're joined by a recruiting class of 11 newcomers heading into 2018-19.
Among the returning Mustangs, senior point guard Dye Stahley is back after winning the Big West Conference Best Hustle Award as a junior. Stahley, who started 53 games over the past two years (making 84 appearances since her freshman year), led the Big West in assist-to-turnover ratio during conference play in 2018, at 2.5-to-1. Additionally, Stahley ranked fourth in the conference in steals per game (2.0), as well as sixth in assists (averaging 3.6). Now with 106 steals for her career, Stahley helped the Mustangs rank No. 15 in the country for 2017-18 in steals per game as a team, with 11.0.
Among the 11 newcomers, Cal Poly will also welcome junior power forward Hana Vesela to the court in mid-December. Vesela, a mid-year transfer last season from Michigan State, helped the Spartans reach the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore, averaging 2.8 points and 1.1 rebounds while shooting .458 overall (as well as .455 from 3-point range and .714 from the free-throw line) in her 8.9 minutes per 21 appearances (including two starts) in 2016-17. Combined for her two seasons in East Lansing, Vesela, a foreign exchange student at Brimley (Mich.) High School from Pribor, Czech Republic, played in 39 games, averaging 7.4 minutes as MSU went 46-21 (22-11 in Big Ten play).
Vesela, expected to return active by Dec. 17, played for the Czech Republic U-20 program at the 2016 FIBA European Championship in Podgorica, Montenegro (averaging 4.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in Division B), as well as the U-18 team at the 2014 tournament in Matosinhos, Portugal.
BIG WEST TOURNAMENT SLATED FOR IRVINE, ANAHEIM: The first round (featuring seeds 5-8) and quarterfinals (adding the No. 3 and 4 seeds) of the 36th annual Big West Tournament will be held from March 12-13 at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, before the semifinals and championship game move to the Honda Center in Anaheim for March 15-16.
Cal Poly was picked fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Big West Conference Preseason Women's Basketball media and coaches polls on Oct. 24. The Mustangs received 101 points in the media balloting for fifth (seven points back of a tie for third between UC Irvine and Long Beach State), next to 35 points in the coaches voting to rank sixth (10 back of Hawai'i, chosen fifth). Defending Big West Tournament champion CSUN was projected by the coaches for first place, receiving 77 points alongside six first-place votes, outdoing 2018 regular-season champion UC Davis' 75 points coupled with three first-place ballots. The media poll was switched at the top, however, with 12 first-place votes boosting the Aggies to No. 1, edging out CSUN (eight first places), 171-166.
Additionally, both also voted on Preseason All-Conference Teams, each of which came out identical: CSUN senior center Channon Fluker along with Matador teammate Serafina Maulupe, a senior guard, UCD senior forward Morgan Bertsch, CSF senior center Daeja Smith, UCI sophomore forward Jordan Sanders, and LBSU sophomore guard Shanajiah Davison.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS: Mustang tickets are available at GoPoly.com, by calling (805) 756-4849 or by visiting the sidewalk window at the on-campus Performing Arts Center from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Families are encouraged to sign up for the Mustang Kids Club ($10 per child 8th grade or under), as over $300 in benefits include ongoing free admission to all 2018-19 regular-season soccer, volleyball, wrestling & women's basketball events along with select football, men's basketball and baseball games; plus invitations to exclusive events; opportunities to be an honorary captain at Mustang home games; a birthday card from Musty; free gelato at SLO Sweets every month (along with birthday scavenger hunts) and a T-Shirt.
Cal Poly students always get into games for free, and are also invited to join the Stang Gang. Stang Gang, Cal Poly's student fan group, features several rewards for a $10 one-time lifetime registration fee, including prizes from sponsors such as Adidas, Amazon, SLO Sweets, Woodstock's Pizza, Eureka! Burger, Splash Café and Frank's Famous Hot Dogs, a member T-Shirt, and more upon reaching point levels by checking in at games.
Additional Mustang games throughout the season feature more fan giveaways along with campus and community events inside Mott Athletics Center (with more to be announced):
• Jan. 5 (Sat.) vs. UC Irvine • 2 p.m.
A Youth Basketball Day in Mott, the game vs. the Anteaters will feature free admission for kids 13-and-under. Mustang Kids Club members can also participate in a free youth basketball clinic with the team from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by free pizza.
• Feb. 9 (Sat.) vs. UC Davis • 2 p.m.
For Play4Kay Day, fans are encouraged to wear pink to support cancer awareness, and for every ticket purchased, $2 will go directly to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund to support cancer research. Fans can also make a donation at the game, or pledge a donation for every free throw Cal Poly makes in February as part of the Play4Kay Free Throw Challenge.
• March 2 (Sat.) vs. CSUN • 2 p.m.
In addition to Senior Day, the home finale will also be a Poly Play Day, as kids are invited to an annual pregame carnival at 1 p.m. in the Stampede Club Tent, followed by free admission for youth 13-and-under.
Links to follow Mustang games live throughout the season can be found above, on the schedule page or via the GoPoly Front Row app.
Photo © Owen Main
Cal Poly Continues 4-Game Road Trip at Fresno State, San Francisco
COMPLETE WEEKLY PREVIEW (PDF)