GAME NOTES: The Cal Poly Mustangs go in search of their first true road win of the season again this weekend, as they take on the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in Big West Conference action at the Thunderdome.
It had been nearly a month since Cal Poly had played before the hometown crowd, having zigzagged across the country with stops at Loyola Marymount, Pittsburgh, back to California and Stanford, before taking on Delaware to begin the new calendar year. On Thursday night, the Mustangs figured to have a hard time ahead of them if they wanted to snap their four-game slide, but really they led wire-to-wire in a 77-65 final versus Hawaii in the conference opener.
As for the Gauchos, they are off to their best start in six seasons, winning nine of their first 13 outings. The team is only now getting the Big West schedule off the ground and has been out of action since last weekend's 81-52 thrashing of The Master's College. The win was the third in a row and the sixth in seven tries for the program.
UC Santa Barbara owns a 69-32 advantage versus the Mustangs all-time according to UCSB sources. Cal Poly has not won on the road in the series since 2007.
While the Mustangs managed to shoot an even 50 percent from the field and 8- of-19 behind the 3-point line on Thursday night, the defense limited Hawaii to a mere 4-of-19 out on the perimeter and forced 14 turnovers in order to secure the 12-point win. Chris Eversley and Dave Nwaba accounted for 17 points apiece, while Jamal Johnson pitched in with 15 and Kyle Odister 12 points. Eversley also pulled down a team-best nine rebounds and matched Johnson with six assists.
Eversley is averaging better than 30 minutes per game, more than anyone else on the team, so it only makes sense that he leads the group in scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg) and is also one of the better passers with his 27 dishes in 14 contests. Nwaba, a 61.3 percent shooter from the floor, helps out in the paint with his 4.6 rpg and is the second-leading scorer with 11.9 ppg, but still points are hard to come by as the group generates only 65.8 ppg.
The meeting with The Master's College was little more than an opportunity to pump up some stats at both ends of the floor for UCSB. The Gauchos held their overmatched visitors to only 34.5 percent shooting from the field and 4-of-19 out on the perimeter, not to mention winning the rebounding battle by a sizeable 45-28 margin. Alan Williams was the top scorer for the hosts with 23 points, adding a game-high 12 rebounds, while Mitch Brewe logged a double- double of his own with 11 points and 10 boards. Off the bench Kyle Boswell tacked on 14 points for the Gauchos.
Williams, who has appeared in 11 of the team's contests, is still averaging a double-double with his 23.5 ppg and 10.7 rpg, accounting for a team-best 29 blocked shots as well. A 57.8 percent shooter from the floor, Williams is smart enough to understand that he has no business getting involved in perimeter shooting, which is why he is one of only two players on the roster with more than 10 minutes played, that has yet to launch a 3-point try. Boswell checks in with 12.5 ppg and tends to take care of the outside needs of the Gauchos with his 48.8 percent accuracy.
The win for Cal Poly was a bit of a rarity the other night, but the Mustangs also lucked out in playing a Hawaii program that doesn't perform all that well on the mainland. That said, the fact that UCSB has had so much time to rest and prepare for this home meeting, expect the Gauchos to be in command from the very beginning.
Game Date and Time