Cal Poly Looks to Continue Big West Climb at UC Irvine, Long Beach State
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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Cal Poly men's basketball team looks to complete a pair of season series sweeps when visiting UC Irvine on Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. and Big West Conference-leading Long Beach State on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m. Saturday's showdown at Long Beach State will be televised live by Fox PRIME TICKET. Home victories against Hawai'i (88-59, Jan. 24) and Cal State Northridge (75-64, Jan. 26) vaulted Cal Poly into third place in the Big West standings. The only Big West opponent to inflict defeat upon Long Beach State (11-8, 7-1) this season, Cal Poly enters Wednesday's matchup at UC Irvine (10-11, 4-4) ranked third among 347 Division I programs in fewest turnovers committed per game (9.6), sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.48-to-1) and 50th in three-point percentage (37.0). Individually, junior guard Jamal Johnson ranks 30th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.58-to-1) while senior guard Dylan Royer ranks 40th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 40.8 percent three-point mark. Long Beach State, which has won 20 successive decisions against Big West opposition inside Walter Pyramid and six straight games since falling at Cal Poly on Jan. 3, routed UC Irvine last Saturday, 81-59. UC Irvine enters play this week deadlocked in a three-way tie for fifth place in the conference standings alongside Cal State Fullerton (11-9, 4-4) and UC Davis (8-11, 4-4).
HOW TO ENJOY MUSTANG BASKETBALL THIS WEEK: Tom Barket (Twitter: @tombarket) returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail of Cal Poly's Jan. 30 matchup at UC Irvine and Feb. 2 contest at Long Beach State for GoPoly.com HERE and in San Luis Obispo County on ESPN 1280. Paul Sunderland (play-by-play) and Michael Cage (color commentary) will handle the television broadcast for Fox PRIME TICKET. Live stats of both games will also be available through GoPoly.com HERE.
CAL POLY VERSUS UC IRVINE: The Mustangs have won four successive games against the Anteaters – including a 72-67 decision inside the Mott Athletics Center (Jan. 5) – and prevailed during the last three trips to UC Irvine's Bren Center. Despite looking to finalize a second straight season series sweep of the Anteaters, Cal Poly trails UC Irvine in the all-time series (21-20) and Division I series (18-17).
CAL POLY VERSUS LONG BEACH STATE: The Mustangs stemmed a six-game slide against Long Beach State with their 79-73 home triumph on Jan. 3, but Cal Poly has prevailed during just one of its last four trips to the Walter Pyramid. Looking to complete its first season series sweep of the 49ers since the 2007-08 campaign, Cal Poly trails Long Beach State in both the all-time series (41-29) and Division I series (22-13).
POSSESSION IS NINE-TENTHS OF THE VICTORY: One of the nation's most efficient teams featuring one of Division I's most efficient players, Cal Poly's figure for fewest turnovers per game (9.6) trails only Wisconsin (9.1) and Bucknell (9.4) while the Mustangs rank sixth among 347 Division I programs with a 1.48-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Highlighted by an 18-assist, six-turnover outing versus Northern Colorado (Nov. 15), a 20-assist, eight-turnover effort against Menlo College (Dec. 8) and a 20-assist, nine-turnover performance versus Hawai'i (Jan. 24), Cal Poly has finished with a double-digit assist total in 17 of 18 games this season and with a single-digit turnover total eight times. The 20 assists distributed versus Menlo College and Hawai'i each ranked as the highest single-game total under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE: Sparked by one of the nation's top three-point shooters, Cal Poly enters Wednesday's matchup at UC Irvine ranked 50th among 347 Division I programs with a 37.0 (131-for-354) percent three-point mark. Cal Poly, which has shot higher than 44 percent from beyond the arc six times this season, has sunk at least seven three-pointers during 12 of the last 15 games. Cal Poly's 11 three-pointers against Hawai'i (Jan. 24) marked the program's highest total in a 25-game span.
EVERSLEY REMAINS CAL POLY'S CATALYST: With 21 double-digit scoring outings during his previous 28 contests and six double-doubles already this season, junior forward Chris Eversley enters Wednesday's matchup at UC Irvine ranked seventh among Big West players with a team-leading 16.4 points per contest. Eversley, whose most recent highlight achievement was a 30-point, 14-rebound effort against Cal State Northridge (Jan. 26), also ranks fourth among conference players with 7.8 rebounds per game and seventh with a 78.5 (73-for-93) percent free throw mark. Eversley's other highlight achievements this season include a 25-point effort at Saint Mary's (Dec. 1), 22 points at Santa Clara (Dec. 17), 23 points at Washington (Dec. 20), 24 points against UC Irvine (Jan. 5) and a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double that helped Cal Poly topple then-No. 11 UCLA (Nov. 25). He also grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds at UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 19). Cal Poly's leading returning scorer and rebounder from last season, Eversley is averaging 11.1 career points per game at Cal Poly.
ROYER'S CATCH AND RELEASE POLICY: A year after finishing fifth nationally in three-point percentage, Dylan Royer is again ranked among the top sharpshooters in Division I. Royer, who most recently notched a career-high 19 points at UC Davis (Jan. 10), enters Wednesday's contest at UC Irvine ranked 40th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 40.8 (42-for-103) percent three-point figure. One of two central coast natives on Cal Poly's roster, Royer has knocked down at least one three-pointer during 25 of his last 28 games and multiple three-pointers in 21 of the previous 28 contests. Shooting 44.3 (127-for-287) percent from the three-point line as a collegian and ranked 10th in Cal Poly history in total three-pointers, Royer has reached double-digit scoring figures in eight of 18 games this season.
BENNETT HEADLINES CAL POLY'S FRESHMAN CLASS: Ranked 27th among Division I players and fourth among Big West performers with a 56.1 (83-for-148) percent field goal mark, 6-9 freshman forward Brian Bennett has scarcely ceased offensive production since posting a 10-point, 11-rebound game during his first collegiate outing at TCU (Nov. 9). Third among Mustangs with 10.4 points per game, Bennett's latest highlight efforts include a pair of 17-point performances during victories against Hawai'i (Jan. 24) and Cal State Northridge (Jan. 26). He also scored 16 points to help Cal Poly topple No. 11 UCLA (Nov. 25). Bennett, who has started all 18 games for Cal Poly this season, has reached double-digit scoring figures in 10 of the last 15 contests.
REESE'S SCORING PIECES: Cal Poly's second-leading scorer through eight Big West contests is freshman guard Reese Morgan, whose 11.0 point-per-game conference scoring average is supported by a career-high 26-point effort at UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 19) and 16 points apiece versus Long Beach State (Jan. 3) and Hawai'i (Jan. 24). Morgan, shooting 37.7 (26-for-69) percent from the three-point line this year, nailed seven attempts at UC Santa Barbara – a total one shy of the Cal Poly single-game record. After redshirting his first year on campus after suffering a preseason injury, Morgan has appeared in all 18 games with three starts and, overall, is averaging 6.7 points per contest.
JOHNSON FORGES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: Cal Poly's leading distributor is Jamal Johnson, who enters Wednesday's game at UC Irvine ranked 30th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 2.58-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Also third among Big West players with 4.4 assists per game, Johnson established a new career high with eight assists during Cal Poly's Jan. 5 dethroning of defending conference champion Long Beach State. Johnson has kicked down multiple assists in 17 of 18 games this season and five-plus assists nine times.
HOME IS WHERE THE WINS ARE: A year after finishing 10-4 inside the Mott Athletics Center to post the program's highest home winning percentage (.714) in five seasons, Cal Poly is off to a 7-1 start during the 2012-13 campaign. The Mustangs are 18-10 in Big West contests inside the Mott Athletics Center under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero, but have won their last nine home games against conference opposition. In support of Cal Poly's winning ways, the Mustangs have experienced a 42.5 percent increase in attendance between the 2008-09 campaign (the final season prior to Callero's central coast arrival) and last season's average of 2,242 fans per home contest. Cal Poly has never experienced a losing record inside the Mott Athletics Center under Callero and is 27-15 at home since his 2009 arrival.
MUSTANGS FACING ANOTHER TESTING SCHEDULE: Labeling it "the most ambitious schedule we've ever put together," fourth-year head coach Joe Callero and his Mustangs will play 10 games this year against programs that qualified for postseason play a year ago. Below is a listing of Cal Poly's matchups this season against last year's postseason qualifiers.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: A handful of historic achievements were recorded during Cal Poly's 70-68 upstaging of No. 11 UCLA on Nov. 25:
• The victory was Cal Poly's first against a nationally ranked opponent at the Division I level and first against UCLA in six all-time matchups.
• UCLA, which was handed its first loss at New Pauley Pavilion, entered the game as the second-highest ranked opponent Cal Poly had ever faced.
• UCLA went from No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll to unranked, a drop that marked the second biggest free fall in the 64-year history of the poll. Only Missouri, ranked No. 9 at one point in 2011, had fallen further.
• In upsetting UCLA, Cal Poly overcame an 18-point deficit with 12 minutes to play.
CAL POLY SOLIDIFIES BACKCOURT FOR 2013-14 SEASON: Cal Poly strengthened an already deep backcourt on Nov. 14 with the announcement that guards Markel Leonard (Hercules, Calif.; Salesian HS), Ridge Shipley (Carrollton, Texas; Hebron HS) and Taylor Sutlive (San Antonio, Texas; Churchill HS) signed National Letters of Intent. The 6-0, 165-pound Leonard averaged 10.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game during his 2011-12 junior season for a Salesian HS squad that finished 34-2 overall and captured the California Interscholastic Federation Division IV state championship. A two-year letterwinner for Hebron HS, the 6-0, 170-pound Shipley averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 assists per game during his 2011-12 junior season to earn all-district and all-area first team praise. The 6-3, 185-pound Sutlive averaged 12.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game last year to assist Churchill HS to a 33-3 overall record and a district 26-5A championship.
LOOKING AHEAD (FEB. 4-10): Cal Poly looks to continue its home dominance against Big West opposition when welcoming Pacific (12-8, 6-2) on Thursday, Feb. 7 and UC Davis (8-11, 4-4) on Saturday, Feb. 9. Both games tip at 7 p.m. for Cal Poly, which has won nine successive home games against Big West opposition. Cal Poly also looks to avenge earlier road losses at UC Davis (69-67, Jan. 10) and Pacific (77-55, Jan. 12). Held under 40 points during each its last two visits to the Mott Athletics Center, Pacific hosts UC Davis on Saturday, Feb. 2 before visiting Cal Poly. The Mustangs have defeated UC Davis at home during each of the past three seasons.
ETC.: Cal Poly has won three of its four home openers under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero and is 14-5 at the Division I level in home-opening contests after topping Northern Colorado, 64-53 (Nov. 15) ... Cal Poly's 70-68 victory at UCLA (Nov. 25) marked the program's first win against a ranked opponent in 19 Division I seasons, the first win against the Bruins in six all-time meetings and UCLA's first loss at New Pauley Pavilion ... UCLA went from No. 11 in the AP Top 25 poll to unranked following the loss to Cal Poly, a drop that marked the second biggest free fall in the 64-year history of the poll. Only Missouri, ranked No. 9 at one point in 2011, had fallen further ... the 64.4 (29-for-45) percent field goal mark allowed against Saint Mary's (Dec. 1) was Cal Poly's highest since letting Portland State shoot 67.4 (31-for-46) percent during a 92-83 loss on Nov. 21, 2009 (a span of 97 games) ... the 14 points scored by Menlo College during the first half of Cal Poly's 89-43 victory (Dec. 8) were the fewest by a Mustang opponent at the Division I level ... the victory against Menlo also marked head coach Joe Callero's 100th game at the helm of Cal Poly and the program's second 46-point win of the 2012 calendar year (the Mustangs trounced Cal State Northridge on Jan. 21, 2012, 100-54) ... Cal Poly failed to win the opening five tips of the season before prevailing against Menlo College (Dec. 8) ... Cal Poly improved to 29-1 at the Division I level against non-Division I opponents with a 60-57 victory against Division II Eastern New Mexico (Dec. 14) ... between a Dec. 1 loss at Saint Mary's, a Dec. 11 defeat at Nevada and a Dec. 8 home victory against Menlo College, Cal Poly played three successive games that did not feature a lead change ... the Mustangs improved to 6-11 in Big West-opening games and 4-4 in conference openers on the road after a 58-48 victory at UC Riverside (Dec. 29) ... the win at UC Riverside marked head coach Joe Callero's 50th victory in charge of the Mustangs ... Cal Poly snapped a six-game slide against Long Beach State with a 79-73 home triumph on Jan. 3 (the win was also Cal Poly's first inside the Mott Athletics Center against Long Beach State in five seasons).