Ben Rozak

Patience may be a virtue, but it could also be the saving grace for the Cal Poly men’s basketball team’s floundering season.

“This team has to grind it out a bit more on offense, and be a little more selective,” Mustangs head coach Kevin Bromley says.

The Mustangs may have to be more offensively judicious in order to get back in the Big West Conference race, which they resume by hosting UC Davis at Mott Gym at 7 p.m. tonight.

In light of Cal Poly’s sixth loss in seven games, a 75-60 defeat Saturday at the hands of UC Santa Barbara, in which the Mustangs made just 2 of 19 attempts from 3-point range, wiser shot selection was emphasized more than ever, Bromley explained.

“It’s not necessarily how many 3s we take,” he said. “It’s more about when we take 3s.”

While the Mustangs (6-11, 1-4 Big West) have vowed to find a better offensive balance, Bromley said, they still have to rely at times on their long-range game, which isn’t as overused as some observers may think, especially for a team that belongs to a conference in which eight of nine teams average 18 or more 3-point tries per game.

Even in the trigger-happy conference, though, the Mustangs rank last in both field-goal percentage (39.8) and 3-point percentage (28.8).

“Without a doubt this team is struggling from 3-point range,” Bromley said. “People know that and will pack it in inside so you still have to shoot a few of them. . If you’re a baseball team you can’t just bunt every time. You’ve got to get some hits.”

An attack that bides more of its time could cure much of the Mustangs’ recent shooting frustrations, Cal Poly forward Matt Hanson said.

“It’s something we’ve been working on in practice,” said the senior, who leads the Mustangs with both 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. “Our shot selection hasn’t been the best; we’ve been shooting with a hand in the face. Now we’ve been focusing on wearing down a defense, and waiting for the time to take the shot most likely to go in.”

If there were ever an opponent that could lend itself toward a more involved performance by Cal Poly’s post players, it could be UC Davis.

The Aggies (8-10, 2-3 Big West) set foot in San Luis Obispo last in the Big West in both offensive and defensive rebounds, and in rebounding differential, surrendering 6.1 more boards per contest than they pull down.

“(Bromley) expects us to dominate on the glass,” said the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Hanson. “That could get us points we haven’t been getting in the past couple games.”

On the perimeter for UC Davis will be 6-foot-3 guard Vince Oliver, who leads the Aggies with 13.6 points per game.

“He has the potential to break away from the (set) offense and get points,” Bromley said.

Three Aggies starters are at least 6-foot-7, including 230-pound forward Shane Hanson, but their unusual lineup doesn’t depend on conventional organizers and finishers, Matt Hanson said.

“They are an interesting team,” he said. “They don’t really have a true point guard or a true center. All of them can shoot – they don’t really specialize in one area; all of them can do good things so you can’t ignore any of them.”

UC Davis, which doesn’t have a senior on its entire roster and plays just one player off the bench for at least 13 minutes per game, forces defenses to be patient because of its intricate Princeton-style offense, Bromley emphasized.

“You can’t pressure them out of it – you’ve got to defend it and be disciplined,” he said. “Throughout the shot clock you can’t break down, and the later and later it gets you’ve got to tighten up.”

While the Mustangs are only a third into their conference schedule, they may need to right their ship in a hurry to come close to last year’s banner season, which they also began 1-3 in the Big West before ultimately coming within one win of the NCAA Tournament.

That squad, though, boasted then-senior Derek Stockalper, who glued together Cal Poly’s offensive pieces by firing a blistering 49.6 percent from 3-point range.

“This team is growing and maturing,” Bromley said. “We’re not last year’s team, when we made it look simple.”

Hanson concurred that on their own merits this season, the Mustangs still have time to make amends to their early-season shortcomings.

“Last year we dug ourselves out of a hole,” he said. “(This year) we got off to a slow start, but you’ve got to keep your head up.”

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