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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Off to the best start during the program's 18-year Division I tenure, the Cal Poly men's basketball program opens its 16th season of Big West Conference competition against rival UC Santa Barbara on Monday, Jan. 2 at 7:05 p.m. inside Mott Gym. Televised locally on KSBY-TV for the second-successive season, the matchup serves as the 500th game for Cal Poly at the Division I level. Winners of seven of their last nine games, Cal Poly (9-4) matched the 2001-02 Mustang squad for best start to a Division I campaign with a 67-61 victory against Hope International (Dec. 29). The Mustangs are 6-9 all-time in Big West opening games. Idle for 11 days entering the matchup, UC Santa Barbara (5-5) looks to snap a three-game slide following losses at Washington (Dec. 16), California (Dec. 19) and BYU (Dec. 22).
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS THIS WEEK: Tom Barket returns to the headset to provide play-by-play detail of Cal Poly's Jan. 2 matchup versus UC Santa Barbara 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. On the television side, Andrew Masuda will handle play-by-play duties and Bill Halter color commentary for KSBY-TV in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.
CAL POLY VERSUS UC SANTA BARBARA: The most frequent opponent in Cal Poly's history, UC Santa Barbara owns a 58-32 series lead since the first meeting between the two programs on Jan. 10, 1947. More recently, the Gauchos have won seven of the past eight matchups. The last two meetings between the two sides in Mott Gym have been hotly-contested affairs. Last year, Gaucho forward James Nunnally's 10-foot buzzer-beating jumper lifted UC Santa Barbara to a 71-70 victory on KSBY-TV. In front of a capacity Mott Gym crowd two seasons ago, Mustang forward David Hanson pulled down 16 rebounds to help lift Cal Poly to a 60-57 triumph.
CAL POLY LOOKS FOR BIG WEST REPEAT: Powered by a six-game winning streak between Feb. 3-16, the 2010-11 Mustangs matched single-season school records for highest showing in the Big West standings (second), highest seeding for the conference tournament (second) and total Big West victories (10-6).
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 Monday's matchup versus UC Santa Barbara ranked 12th among NCAA programs in opponent points per game (55.2) and 46th in opponent three-point percentage (29.1), as well as leading the Big West in opponent rebounds per game (28.4). 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 13 games this year. The Mustangs have also held opponents under 30 percent from three-point range a further eight 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 point total under 100. 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.
CAL POLY TOUGH ON THE BOARDS: Cal Poly has grabbed the same amount of boards or outrebounded its opponent during 12 of 13 games this year, production that has the Mustangs ranked 18th nationally in rebounding margin (plus-8.0) entering Monday's matchup versus UC Santa Barbara. Not surprisingly, Cal Poly is 8-1 when outrebounding the opposition with the lone defeat coming at DePaul (Dec. 21).
TAYLOR RISES TO THE OCCASION: Having produced his third double-double of the season (11 points, 10 rebounds) at DePaul (Dec. 21) and grabbed an additional 11 boards against Hope International (Dec. 29), senior forward Will Taylor enters Monday's matchup versus UC Santa Barbara ranked third among Big West players with a 55.4 (51-for-92) percent field goal mark and fourth with a team-best 7.8 rebounds per game. A starter during all 13 of Cal Poly's contests after redshirting last season, Taylor has shot higher than 60 percent from the floor and recorded double-digit scoring figures five times this year and grabbed seven-plus rebounds on seven occasions.
FERMIN FORGES THE BULLETS FOR CAL POLY TO FIRE: The Big West's most efficient point guard, senior Amaurys Fermin enters Monday's matchup versus UC Santa Barbara leading all conference players in assists (58), assists per game (4.46) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.07-to-1). Fermin, who matched a career high with eight assists at DePaul (Dec. 21), also ranks second among Mustangs with 10.7 points per contest and owns nine double-digit scoring games.
HANSON BACK IN FORM: Held to just four total points during Cal Poly's opening two games, senior forward David Hanson enters Monday's matchup versus UC Santa Barbara having reached double-digit scoring figures in nine of the program's last 11 contests. Cal Poly's leading returning scorer from last year, Hanson currently paces the Mustangs with 11.2 points per game after posting successive double-doubles at DePaul (Dec. 21; 13 points, 11 rebounds) and versus Hope International (Dec. 29; 11 points, 11 rebounds).
ROYER KEEPS THE HOT HAND: The Big West's top three-point threat with a 56.4 (31-for-55) percent mark from the arc, junior guard Dylan Royer (above) would also rank first ahead of approximately 4,224 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 7.9 points per contest, Royer has hit at least one three-pointer in 14-successive games and has knocked down multiple three-pointers on nine occasions this season. Royer, who scored 41 combined points between his freshman and sophomore seasons, has already registered 103 as a junior.
SAY WHAT'S REAL – DRAKE U'U: A starter in all 13 of Cal Poly's games after making 18 reserve appearances last season, junior guard Drake U'u has cemented his increased role by ranking fifth among Mustangs with 7.8 points per game and posting team-leading marks for assist-to-turnover ratio (2.16-to-1) and free throw percentage (88.0; 22-for-25). Closing in on the Mustang program's single-season free throw percentage record (Mike Wozniak, 89.0 percent, 1997-98), U'u would also lead every Big West player from the line, had he met the conference statistical minimum of two made free throws per game.
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 17-12 overall mark in Mott Gym, a 9-7 record against Big West opposition and, this season alone, allowed just 56.8 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 the 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.
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.
NOTABLE NIGHT: During a 91-58 dismantling of Menlo College (Dec. 14), Cal Poly enjoyed numerous offensive achievements, most notably for:
– Total Points (91): Cal Poly's highest total since defeating Hawai'i, 102-89, on Feb. 20, 2010.
– Margin of Victory (33 points): Cal Poly's largest since pounding North Florida on Nov. 21, 2008 (76-42) – a span of 96 games.
– Players in Double-Digit Scoring Figures (Five): Cal Poly's highest since the aforementioned win at Hawai'i.
– Total Assists (19) / Fewest Turnovers (Six): Cal Poly's assist total was its highest since distributing 19 during a 95-81 win at UC Irvine on Jan. 4, 2010; the turnover total was the program's lowest since defeating UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 20, 2007, 71-61 – a span of 142 games. Cal Poly's 3.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio was the highest mark under third-year head coach Joe Callero.
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 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 12 of 13 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.