GAME NOTES: A Big West Conference tilt is on tap for Thursday night, as the Cal Poly Mustangs put their impressive home record on the line against the visiting UC Riverside Highlanders.
UCR's season has been lackluster to say the least, as it has won just six of its 29 games overall, and at 3-13 in the Big West, it is all alone in last place. The Highlanders have dropped 10 of their last 11 games, most recently falling on Senior Night last Saturday to Pacific, 70-68.
Meanwhile, Cal Poly has kept its head above water this season, going 15-12 overall, and it is just a game back of Pacific for second place in the league (10-6). The Mustangs have ripped off three straight wins, including a 64-61 triumph over Hawaii last Saturday, and now they return home where they've won 11 of 12 bouts,
Cal Poly snapped a series tie versus UC Riverside by winning on the road on Dec. 29, 58-48, to take a 44-43 lead all-time.
The Highlanders appeared down for the count when they trailed by nine with under five minutes to play in their latest outing, and while they managed to climb back in late, a game-winning 3-point attempt by Robert Smith at the buzzer was off the mark as they were saddled with the heart-breaking, two- point loss. Chris Patton was outstanding in defeat, shooting 10-of-15 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the foul line for 28 points. Smith was also solid, pouring in 16 points. Despite the recent effort, UCR usually struggles mightily to put points on the board, as it averages a league-low 59.3 ppg while also ranking last in field goal percentage (.419), 3-point percentage (.291) and free-throw percentage (.588). Patton has been the exception to the rule, as he is in the midst of a strong campaign with 13.6 ppg on 54.5 percent field goal shooting. Chris Harriel is also effective with 10.4 ppg, while Josh Fox mans the paints with 9.3 ppg and a team-best 6.5 rpg.
Cal Poly went into hostile territory and managed to hold off Hawaii for the three-point win by draining 49 percent of its field goal attempts. Chris Eversley was the catalyst in the tough road triumph, shooting 11-of-18 from the field for 25 points, while Reese Morgan provided a spark off the bench with 10 points. The Mustangs once again played an outstanding defensive game, holding the Rainbow Warriors to 40.4 percent field goal efficiency, and they have been solid at that end of the court all season long, allowing a league- low 63.6 ppg. The stingy defensive effort makes up for the fact that they aren't always successful shooting the ball (.425 FG percentage, 66.1 ppg). Eversley is easily one of the best forwards in the Big West, pouring in 16.2 ppg on nearly 46 percent field goal shooting to go along with 7.3 rpg. Dylan Royer nets 10.3 ppg with most of his damage coming from beyond the arc (73- of-174, .420), while Brian Bennett brings 9.7 ppg to the mix.
Cal Poly has been nearly unstoppable at home this season, and not much is expected to change when last-place UCR comes to town.
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