For many of us, it’s like the phenomenon of a home-cooked meal. Food always tastes better when it comes from your mom’s oven.
At Mott Gym, the concept is the same but the scent is entirely different. Here, it’s more of a new-sneaker smell mixed with pebble-grain leather and the acrid, pharmaceutical scent of athletic tape. Or maybe it’s the scent of flesh and floor varnish.
Take a whiff. This is the home of the Mustangs.
Tonight, Cal Poly (10-16, 6-7 Big West) begins a season-ending three-game home stand as they host Cal State Fullerton (14-12, 7-6) in a game televised on FSN West.
Homecourt advantage is something the Mustangs have benefited from this season. The Mustangs have posted a 5-4 record at home as opposed to a 5-12 record on the road.
The advantage is something head coach Joe Callero said is integral to his team’s success on the court. At the beginning of their season, Callero commented in a video about Mott Gym’s home-court legacy.
“When we pack Mott Gym, when we make the walls of Mott Gym sweat, when we get the Maniacs here,” Callero said. “Everyone jumps higher, we shoot better and we play better defense … it’s the home court advantage we look forward to.”
With these high hopes, when asked about the home-court advantage so far this season, Callero explained the advantage for his team is familiarity.
“My 10-year-old daughter asked me why it’s so important,” Callero said. “I asked her in simple terms: Do you sleep better in your own bed or in a hotel room? I said you always sleep better in your own bed, just like you shoot better in your own gym.”
The team has proven Callero’s comparison true. The Mustangs total game attendance averages 400 more fans than last year — with three home games left in the regular season.
“Its really been building and getting better and better each game. We averaged over 2,000 fans the last four games,” he said.
Ryan Darling, senior forward, said he likes the home-court atmosphere.
“We want to let them know we appreciate them, and we’re here to represent their school,” Darling said.
While on the court, the game is his main focus, but the crowd still has an effect.
“I want to say I tune the crowd out, but when something is done well, it’s amplified and when something is done poorly, it’s amplified too,” he said.
In their previous match up back on Jan.14, the Mustangs fell to the Titans by a score of 68-54 at Fullerton. This time around, the game will be played on the Mustangs’ home court.
In that game, guards Shawn Lewis and Lorenzo Keeler were the only players to score in double figures in what was one of the lowest offensive outputs by the team this season.
“I think it’s a team that can score … so it really comes down to they have great athletes and we got to be able to defend them and hold them under 70 (points) and obviously the key for us is scoring over 70,” Callero said.
In the game the Mustangs converted 59 percent of their shots going 19-32. The Titans went 30-37 making 80 percent of their free throw attempts.
The game against the Titans will be a key conference match, as the Mustangs are one game behind Fullerton in the conference standings. Still up for grabs is the number three seed in the Big West tournament, which would belong to Fullerton if the season were to end today.
Freshman guard Kyle Odister knew that the season is far from over as Cal Poly will battle for leverage in the tournament.
“Everybody’s going to have to step up. We know what they’re going to do now and we know the scouting report,” he said. “We knew nothing was going to be handed to us this whole year.”
At the beginning of the season, Cal Poly was projected to finish at the bottom of the Big West. Last season, the Mustangs finished 3-13 in conference — Cal Poly has already doubled the number of wins in conference this year.
Despite its success, Callero is trying to focus his team on the game in front of them.
“The eyes are on you and the lights are turned up — its game time,” he said.
— Brian De Los Santos and Zach Lantz contributed to this article.