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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Off to the program's best start in 10 seasons and winners of four of the previous five games, the Cal Poly men's basketball team hosts NAIA Menlo College on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. inside Mott Gym. A 47-40 victory at San Jose State on Dec. 10 allowed Cal Poly (6-3) to match the 2001-02 Mustang squad for the program's best start in 18 Division I seasons (the 2001-02 Mustangs eventually won nine of their first 12 games). Members of the California Pacific Conference, Menlo fell to 2-9 after dropping an 83-73 decision at Division III UC Santa Cruz on Dec. 10.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS THIS WEEK: Tom Barket returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail of Cal Poly's Wednesday matchup versus Menlo College for GoPoly.com HERE and in San Luis Obispo County on ESPN 1280. Livestats and streaming video of the matchup are also be available HERE.
CAL POLY VERSUS MENLO COLLEGE: Dating to a 62-59 triumph against Menlo College on Jan. 11, 1995 – Cal Poly's first victory at the Division I level – the Mustangs have prevailed during all three meetings against the Oaks. Cal Poly last hosted Menlo on Dec. 2, 2007, topping the Oaks, 66-44.
DEFENSE REMAINS AT THE FOREFRONT: A year after developing a national reputation for defensive stinginess, the Mustangs remain atop the Big West Conference and NCAA defensive charts. Cal Poly enters Wednesday's matchup versus Menlo College ranked seventh among NCAA programs in opponent points per game (54.3) while also leading the Big West in opponent three-point percentage (29.3) and opponent rebounds per game (28.1). Highlighted by limiting USC to 36 points on Nov. 19 – the fewest points scored by a Cal Poly opponent in 18 years at the Division I level – the Mustangs have held foes under 60 points during six of nine games this year. The Mustangs have also held opponents under 30 percent from three-point range a further six times during the 2011-12 season.
MUSTANGS GRIND 'EM OUT: Cal Poly's 47-40 victory against San Jose State on Dec. 10 marked the ninth time since the start of the 2010-11 campaign that the Mustangs had held an opponent under 50 points and the 10th time that Cal Poly had kept the combined score under 100 points. Since the start of last season, Cal Poly is 8-1 when holding an opponent under 50 points and 6-4 when keeping the combined score under 100.
MUSTANGS TOUGH ON THE BOARDS: Cal Poly has grabbed the same amount of boards or outrebounded its opponent in seven of nine games this year, production that has the Mustangs ranked 37th nationally in rebounding margin (plus-6.7) entering Wednesday's matchup versus Menlo College. Not surprisingly, Cal Poly is 5-0 when outrebounding the opposition.
TITCHENAL ENJOYS CAREER NIGHT: Matt Titchenal had registered just one basket in four appearances prior to Cal Poly's Dec. 10 matchup at San Jose State, but, in a 23-minute reserve stretch against the Spartans, the senior guard helped to lift the Mustangs to a 47-40 victory with a career-high four three-pointers (from four attempts) and a collegiate-best 16 points. Titchenal's previous career highs for three-pointers (three) and points (nine) came during Cal Poly's 65-60 victory at UC Riverside on Jan. 20, 2011.
ROYER KEEPS THE HOT HAND: The Big West's top three-point threat with a 61.8 (21-for-34) percent mark from the arc, junior guard Dylan Royer would also lead all 4,225 Division I players had he met national statistical minimums. Royer, the only central coast native on Cal Poly's roster, has twice knocked down a career-high five three-pointers this season: versus Mississippi Valley State (5-for-7, Nov. 26) and Sacramento State (5-for-5, Nov. 30). Fourth among Mustangs with 7.6 points per contest, Royer has hit at least one three-pointer in 10-successive games, dating to last season. Royer, who scored 41 combined points between his freshman and sophomore seasons, has already registered 68 as a junior.
FERMIN MAKES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: The Big West's most efficient point guard, senior Amaurys Fermin enters Wednesday's matchup versus Menlo College leading all conference players in assists (38) and assists per game (4.22). Fermin, who handed out a career-high eight assists against Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 26), also ranks second among Big West players with a 1.81-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and second among Mustangs with 9.9 points per contest.
TAYLOR RISES TO THE OCCASION: Having already notched career single-game scoring (16, Nov. 16) and rebounding (13, Nov. 12) highs, senior forward Will Taylor – who redshirted the 2010-11 season – enters Wednesday's matchup versus Menlo College leading the Mustangs with a 55.0 percent field goal mark and ranked seventh among Big West players with 6.7 rebounds per game. A starter in all nine of Cal Poly's games, Taylor has shot higher than 60 percent from the floor and recorded double-digit scoring figures four times and grabbed seven-plus rebounds on three occasions.
HANSON RETURNS TO FORM: Held to just four total points during Cal Poly's opening two games, senior forward David Hanson enters Wednesday's matchup versus Menlo College having reached double-digit scoring figures in five of the program's last seven contests. Cal Poly's leading returning scorer from last year, Hanson currently paces the Mustangs with 10.3 points per game.
HANSON ON VERGE OF HISTORY: David Hanson requires just 28 additional points to become the third Mustang in as many seasons and the 17th player in program history to notch 1,000 career points. Hanson, who finished eighth among Big West players last year with 455 total points and 15.2 per 30 games, is currently sixth among active conference players in career points. Guard Shawn Lewis completed his four-year Mustang career last year as the seventh-leading scorer in program history with 1,304 points while guard Lorenzo Keeler (2007-10) ended his tenure ranked No. 11 with 1,157 points.
IF IT AIN'T BROKE … : Cal Poly's Nov. 22 loss at UNLV marked the only time third-year head coach Joe Callero has deviated from his starting five of guards Amaurys Fermin, Maliik Love and Drake U'u and forwards David Hanson and Will Taylor. The Mustangs are 6-2 this year when that quintuplet starts.
WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE: Cal Poly's 14 home games this season are the most contests inside Mott Gym since the program hosted 16 opponents during the 1999-00 campaign. Under Joe Callero, Cal Poly has posted a 15-12 overall mark in Mott Gym, a 9-7 record against Big West opposition and, this season alone, allowed just 55.5 points per game.
MUSTANGS FACE NATION'S FINEST IN 2011-12: In what has become a hallmark of head coach Joe Callero's three-season tenure, Cal Poly will again face another testing schedule during the 2011-12 campaign. Continuing with a Jan. 2 clash against UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly will play seven games this season against programs that qualified for either the 2011 NCAA Tournament or NIT. Below is a listing of Cal Poly's contests against last year's postseason qualifiers.
MUSTANGS RETURN TO THE SMALL SCREEN: A year after making a program-record five television appearances, the Mustangs are scheduled to appear on TV a further four times during the 2011-12 campaign. Below is a listing of Cal Poly's 2011-12 television schedule, including tentative dates.
Jan. 2 – UC Santa Barbara (KSBY-TV)
Jan. 21 – Cal State Northridge (PRIME)
Feb. 18 – ESPNU BracketBuster (Pending)
Feb. 25 – at UC Santa Barbara (ESPNU)
March 3 – Pacific (KSBY-TV)
March 9 – Big West Tournament semifinaL (ESPNU; pending)
March 10– Big West Tournament championship (ESPN2; pending)
HAWAI'I AND SAN DIEGO STATE SET TO JOIN BIG WEST CONFERENCE: Cal Poly's number of conference games will swell to 18 next season and 20 for the 2013-14 campaign with the successive additions of Hawai'i and San Diego State to the Big West. Previously a member of the Big West from 1984-96, Hawai'i will resume official competition during the 2012-13 campaign with San Diego State – an original conference member (1969-78) – set to rejoin the following year. Both schools will compete in every sport in which the Big West sponsors a championship.
LOOKING AHEAD: Cal Poly hits the road for a two-game swing to Fresno State (Dec. 17) and DePaul (Dec. 21). The Mustangs, who've dropped 13-straight decisions against Fresno State (4-6) since defeating the Bulldogs on Feb. 4, 1971, are also visiting the Save Mart Center for the first time since Feb. 23, 2008. The showdown versus DePaul (6-3) at the Allstate Arena marks Cal Poly's first game against a Big East Conference opponent since the program's first Division I game – a 97-60 loss at Boston College on Nov. 25, 1994. Cal Poly has not faced a current Big East member since dropping a 69-62 decision at Seton Hall on Dec. 12, 1973. The Mustangs have never previously faced DePaul or any program from Chicago.
MUSTANGS SIGN THREE FOR 2012-13 CAMPAIGN: Joe Callero and the Mustang Athletics Department increased Cal Poly's collective height and strengthened the program's collective depth on Nov. 9 with the joint announcement that 6-7 Zachary Allmon (San Luis Obispo, Calif. / Mission College Prep), 6-9 Brian Bennett (Romeoville, Ill. / Plainfield East HS) and 6-8 Josh Hall (Brush Prarie, Wash. / St. John's Northwestern Military Academy) each signed National Letters of Intent to join the Mustangs for the 2012-13 campaign. As a junior during the 2010-11 campaign, Allmon averaged 12.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game for a Mission Prep side that reached the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5-AA semifinals. An All-San Luis Obispo County first team selection last season, Allmon also served as a captain for the Royals. Bennett helped lead Plainfield East HS to the program's first victory in the Illinois State Tournament during the 2010-11 season. Ranked among the Southwest Prairie Conference's leaders in both field goal and free throw percentage, Bennett has been named to the honor roll during each of his semesters at Plainfield East HS. Hall is attending St. John's Northwestern Military Academy (Delafield, Wisc.) following a standout career at Hockinson HS. Hall earned All-Washington first team praise and was named Most Valuable Player of the Greater St. Helens League as a senior during the 2010-11 campaign after averaging more than 20 points per game and leading the Hawks to a conference championship. A four-year All-Greater St. Helens League first team honoree, Hall owns half of Hockinson's school scoring records, including career points (1,571).
ETC.: Cal Poly improved to 9-9 in season-opening contests at the Division I level with a 79-52 victory against San Jose State (Nov. 12) … Cal Poly's 27-point margin of victory against San Jose State (Nov. 12) was the program's largest disparity under third-year head coach Joe Callero and the program's largest since hammering North Florida on Nov. 21, 2008, 76-42 … Cal Poly's lone victory when trailing at halftime this season was a 42-36 triumph at USC on Nov 19 (the Mustangs trailed at the break, 20-13) … Cal Poly's lone defeat when leading at halftime was a 59-54 home defeat against Saint Mary's (the Mustangs led at the break, 26-25) ... the Mustangs have compiled the same amount or more fouls than their opponents during all nine games this season … Cal Poly's Nov. 22 matchup at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center drew 12,061 spectators, the largest attendance figure for the Mustangs since 17,230 fans packed Wisconsin's Kohl Center on Dec. 16, 2009 … Cal Poly's 62-61 victory against Morgan State (Nov. 25) was the program's 200th triumph at the Division I level.