CHICAGO, Ill. – Winners of six of the previous seven games and off to the program's best start in 10 seasons, the Cal Poly men's basketball team completes its second six-day road trip of the year when making the program's debut against DePaul and inside the Allstate Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. PT. With a 65-46 triumph at Fresno State (Dec. 17), Cal Poly (8-3) kept pace with the 2001-02 Mustang squad for the best start to a season in the program's 18-year Division I tenure. The Mustangs enter Wednesday's matchup ranked fifth among Division I programs in opponent points per game (53.9); conversely, DePaul (8-3) – which furthered its winning streak to four-successive victories by topping Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 81-62 (Dec. 17) – averages 79.2 points per contest.
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS THIS WEEK: Tom Barket returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail of Cal Poly's showdown outside Chicago for GoPoly.com HERE and in San Luis Obispo County on ESPN 1280. Live stats and streaming video for both games are also available HERE.
BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS: A Wednesday triumph at DePaul will allow Cal Poly to equalize the 2001-02 Mustang squad's record for the program's absolute best start at the Division I level. Prior to the 2001-02 season, Cal Poly's best 12-game start occurred during the 1991-92 campaign (11-1).
BIG WAIT FOR THE BIG EAST: Wednesday's meeting at DePaul marks the Cal Poly program's first game against a Big East Conference opponent since the program's initial Division I contest – a 97-60 loss at Boston College on Nov. 25, 1994 (a game recently featured in the ESPN Films documentary about Chris Herren, Unguarded). Cal Poly has not faced a current Big East member since dropping a 69-62 decision at Seton Hall on Dec. 12, 1973.
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 at DePaul ranked fifth among NCAA programs in opponent points per game (53.9) and 40th in opponent three-point percentage (28.6), as well as leading the Big West in opponent rebounds per game (27.4). 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 eight of 11 games this year. The Mustangs have also held opponents under 30 percent from three-point range a further seven times during the 2011-12 season.
MUSTANGS GRIND 'EM OUT: Cal Poly's 65-46 victory at Fresno State (Dec. 17) marked the 10th time since the start of the 2010-11 campaign that the Mustangs had held an opponent under 50 points while a 47-40 triumph at San Jose State (Dec. 10) marked the 10th time that Cal Poly had kept the combined score under 100 points. Since the start of last season, Cal Poly is 9-1 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 nine of 11 games this year, production that has the Mustangs ranked 18th nationally in rebounding margin (plus-8.0) entering Wednesday's matchup at DePaul. Not surprisingly, Cal Poly is 7-0 this season when outrebounding the opposition.
LAST TIME OUT (DEC. 17): Senior point guard Amaurys Fermin finished with 12 points and senior forward David Hanson – who became the 18th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points – finished with a further 12 as Cal Poly produced its first victory against Fresno State in 41 years with a 65-46 triumph inside the Save Mart Center. Senior forward Will Taylor added a game-high eight rebounds for the Mustangs, who ended a 13-game slide against the Bulldogs dating to Feb. 4, 1971. In keeping pace with the 2001-02 Mustang squad for the best start during the program's 18-year Division I history, Cal Poly shot 51.0 (25-for-49) percent from the floor and 42.9 (9-for-21) percent from three-point range.
The Mustangs trailed just once and, with all five starters having scored inside the game's opening eight minutes, the Mustangs charged out to a 15-8 lead. A three-pointer from sophomore forward Chris Eversley and a Taylor lay-in helped Cal Poly increase its lead to 27-18 90 seconds before the break, but it was Fermin's 40-foot hanging three-pointer on the sound of the halftime buzzer that allowed the Mustangs to retain their nine-point cushion.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Fermin and sophomore guard Kyle Odister extended Cal Poly's dominance to a 42-25 advantage with 13 minutes to play. Through nine points from Bulldog senior guard Jonathan Wills, Fresno State produced a 13-1 run during the ensuing four minutes to cut the Mustang advantage to 48-40. However, the Mustangs answered with a quick 10-0 run to cement the final decision.
EVERSLEY BACK IN THE 708: One Mustang embracing the friendly confines of Chicago is sophomore forward Chris Eversley, who stared at Payton College Prep and earned All-Chicago second team praise after a 2008-09 senior season in which he averaged 19.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. After making 16 appearances for Rice as a freshman during the 2009-10 campaign, Eversley transferred to Cal Poly and redshirted last season. Eversley has appeared in all 11 games for the Mustangs this season and scored a Cal Poly-high nine points against Menlo College (Dec. 14) after totaling eight versus Cal State Bakersfield (Nov. 16). Eversley's father, Michael, played collegiately at Chicago State (1976-79) and for the Chicago Bulls (1979) while his mother, Nina, played at Long Beach State (1980-84).
TAYLOR RISES TO THE OCCASION: Having scored a career-high 19 points and matched a career best with 13 rebounds during Cal Poly's 91-58 victory against Menlo College (Dec. 14), senior forward Will Taylor – who redshirted the 2010-11 season – enters Wednesday's matchup at DePaul leading the Mustangs with a 55.8 (43-for-77) percent field goal mark and ranked fifth among Big West players with a team-best 7.4 rebounds per game. A starter in all 11 of Cal Poly's contests, Taylor has shot higher than 60 percent from the floor, recorded double-digit scoring figures and grabbed seven-plus rebounds in a game on five separate occasions this year.
FERMIN FORGES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: The Big West's most efficient point guard, senior Amaurys Fermin enters Wednesday's matchup at DePaul leading all conference players in assists (48) and assists per game (4.36). Fermin, who handed out a career-high eight assists against Mississippi Valley State (Nov. 26) and distributed seven against Menlo College (Dec. 14), also ranks third among Big West players with a 1.85-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and second among Mustangs with 10.1 points per contest. Fermin has reached double-digit scoring figures in seven games this year and owns four outings of six-plus assists.
ROYER KEEPS THE HOT HAND: The Big West's top three-point threat with a 60.5 (26-for-43) percent mark from the arc, junior guard Dylan Royer would also top 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 8.0 points per contest, Royer has hit at least one three-pointer in 12-successive games, dating to last season. Royer, who scored 41 combined points between his freshman and sophomore seasons, has already registered 88 as a junior.
HANSON BACK IN FORM: Held to just four total points during Cal Poly's opening two games, senior forward David Hanson enters Wednesday's matchup at DePaul having reached double-digit scoring figures in seven of the program's last nine contests. Cal Poly's leading returning scorer from last year, Hanson currently paces the Mustangs with 11.0 points per game after notching a team-leading 12 during the Dec. 17 triumph at Fresno State. That performance, coupled with a 16-point game against Menlo College (Dec. 10), allowed Hanson to earn Big West Player of the Week praise on Monday, Dec. 19.