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Mustangs visit Cal State Fullerton, Host Saturday BracketBuster Game

COMPLETE WEEKLY PREVIEW (pdf)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The Cal Poly men's basketball program faces Cal State Fullerton for the first time this season when visiting Titan Gym for a 7 p.m. matchup on Wednesday, Feb. 20. The Mustangs conclude the week when hosting Loyola Marymount on Saturday, Feb. 23 inside the Mott Athletics Center in a 7 p.m. Ramada Worldwide BracketBuster matchup. Seeking a fourth successive victory for the first time in two seasons, Cal Poly (12-11, 8-5) climbed to third place in the Big West Conference standings by defeating Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara 67-49 on Feb. 16. Having dropped five of their last six games, Cal State Fullerton (12-13, 5-8) resides in seventh place – two spots above Big West Tournament ineligibility with the top eight programs qualifying for the March 14-16 conference tournament. Loyola Marymount (8-18, 1-12), meanwhile, has lost 10 successive games and sits bottom of the West Coast Conference standings. Cal Poly, 10-1 inside the Mott Athletics Center this year, is making a push to record its highest home win total since finishing 12-2 during the 2006-07 season. Saturday's game against Loyola Marymount also marks Cal Poly's 50th home game under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero with the Mustangs compiling a 33-16 mark during his tenure. Cal Poly enters play this week leading all 347 Division I programs in fewest turnovers committed per game (9.2) and ranked fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.49-to-1). Individually, Cal Poly junior guard Jamal Johnson ranks 18th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.64-to-1) while senior guard Dylan Royer ranks 35th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 41.4 percent three-point mark.

HOW TO ENJOY MUSTANG BASKETBALL THIS WEEK: Play-by-play for Cal Poly's Wednesday matchup at Cal State Fullerton and Saturday BracketBuster showdown versus Loyola Marymount will be carried live through GoPoly.com HERE and in San Luis Obispo County on ESPN 1280. The pre-game show begins at 6:45 p.m. Live stats and streaming video will also be available via GoPoly.com HERE.

MUSTANGS GO STREAKING: Cal Poly enters Wednesday's contest at Cal State Fullerton looking for its first four-game winning streak since winning six successive contests from Jan. 29 to Feb. 16, 2011. The six-game streak marks the only time Cal Poly has won at least four straight games under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero.

CAL POLY VERSUS CAL STATE FULLERTON: The Mustangs have dropped two of their previous three road meetings against Cal State Fullerton, including last season's 83-61 defeat (Feb. 2, 2012). Cal Poly's last road victory against the Titans was a 75-70 triumph that was nationally televised by ESPNU on Feb. 26, 2011. The Mustangs lead both the all-time (33-23) and Division I series (18-15) versus the Titans.

CAL POLY VERSUS LOYOLA MARYMOUNT: During the most recent meetings between the two programs, Cal Poly and Loyola Marymount split a pair of 2010-11 matchups with the Mustangs prevailing in San Luis Obispo on Nov. 24, 2010 (55-48) before falling in Los Angeles on Dec. 4 (67-48.). The Mustangs have never lost a home game against Loyola Marymount in three all-time matchups dating to Nov. 26, 1996. Loyola Marymount leads the all-time series 5-3 with the Division I series drawn at 3-3.

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 (9.2) leads all 347 Division I programs while the Mustangs rank fifth nationally with a 1.49-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and 29th with a plus-3.1 turnover margin. Highlighted by an 18-assist, six-turnover outing versus Northern Colorado (Nov. 15), a 20-assist, eight-turnover effort against Menlo College (Dec. 8), a 20-assist performance versus Hawai'i (Jan. 24) and an 18-assist showing versus UC Davis (Feb. 9), Cal Poly has finished with a double-digit assist total in 20 of 23 games this season and with a single-digit turnover total 12 times. The 20 assists distributed versus Menlo College and Hawai'i both rank as the highest single-game total under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero.

EVERSLEY REMAINS CAL POLY'S CATALYST: With 23 double-digit scoring outings during his previous 32 contests and seven double-doubles this season, junior forward Chris Eversley – who missed Cal Poly's Feb. 16 victory against UC Santa Barbara through injury – enters Wednesday's matchup at Cal State Fullerton ranked ninth among Big West players with a team-leading 15.6 points per contest. Eversley, whose most recent highlight achievement was a 21-point, 10-rebound effort against Pacific (Feb. 7), also ranks sixth among conference players with 7.6 rebounds per game and 10th with a 75.0 (84-for-112) 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), a career-high 30 points versus Cal State Northridge (Jan. 26) 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 11.2 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 registered career highs for points (23) and three-pointers (seven) during Cal Poly's Feb. 16 home victory versus UC Santa Barbara, enters Wednesday's contest at Cal State Fullerton ranked 35th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 41.4 (60-for-145) 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 30 of his last 33 games and multiple three-pointers in 25 of the previous 33 contests. Royer also hit six three-pointers to spur Cal Poly's upset of No. 11 UCLA (Nov. 25) and during the program's home victory against UC Davis (Feb. 9). Shooting 44.1 (145-for-329) percent from the three-point line as a collegian and ranked eighth in Cal Poly history in total three-pointers, Royer has reached double-digit scoring figures in 10 of 23 games this season.

BENNETT HEADLINES CAL POLY'S FRESHMAN CLASS: Ranked 47th among Division I players and fifth among Big West performers with a 53.6 (98-for-183) 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 10.0 points per game, Bennett's latest highlight efforts include a pair of 17-point performances during consecutive 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 23 games for Cal Poly this season, has reached double-digit scoring figures in 10 of the last 20 contests.

REESE'S SCORING PIECES: Cal Poly's third-leading scorer through 13 Big West contests is freshman guard Reese Morgan, whose 9.2 point-per-game conference scoring average is supported by a career-high 26-point effort at UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 19), 16 points apiece versus conference-leading Long Beach State (Jan. 3) and Hawai'i (Jan. 24) and 12 points against UC Davis (Feb. 9). Morgan, shooting 35.3 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 during his initial 2011-12 season on campus, Morgan has appeared in all 23 games this year with eight successive starts and, overall, is averaging 6.6 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 Cal State Fullerton ranked 18th among approximately 4,485 Division I players with a 2.64-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Also averaging a team-leading 3.8 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 19 of 23 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 10-1 start during the 2012-13 campaign. The Mustangs are 22-9 in Big West contests inside the Mott Athletics Center under fourth-year head coach Joe Callero, but have won their last 12 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 33-16 at home since his 2009 arrival.

TALE OF TWO SITES: Bolstering Cal Poly's third-place position in the Big West standings is one the conference's more enviable home records as the Mustangs are 10-1 inside the Mott Athletics Center this season and have won 12 successive home contests against league opposition. The Mustangs, however, are just 2-10 away from the central coast this year and have only won two of their previous 11 Big West road matchups. Cal Poly is averaging 72.4 points per game at home this year (versus 60.0 on the road) and shooting 44.6 percent from the floor (against a 38.9 percent clip on the road).

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 11 games this year against programs that qualified for postseason play a year ago.

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. 25-MARCH 3): Cal Poly hits the road for the final time during the regular season when visiting Cal State Northridge on Thursday, Feb. 28 and Hawai'i on Saturday, March 2. Following a 79-68 victory on Jan. 27, 2007, Cal Poly has dropped its last five games inside Cal State Northridge's Matadome. Losers of three straight, Cal State Northridge (13-14, 4-11) visits Southern Utah in a Feb. 23 BracketBuster matchup before welcoming Cal Poly. The Mustangs will play just the third game in program history outside of the continental United States when visiting fourth-place Hawai'i (15-11, 9-6). Cal Poly's last trip to the islands resulted in a 102-89 BracketBuster victory on Feb. 20, 2010. Hawai'i hosts Northern Arizona (Feb. 23) and UC Santa Barbara (Feb. 28) before welcoming Cal Poly.

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) … Cal Poly's seven blocks registered versus UC Davis (Feb. 9) marked the program's highest total since recording nine blocks against Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 13, 2011 – a span of 70 games.