Senior point guard Amaurys Fermin’s game-high 17 points led the Mustangs on Saturday afternoon as the Cal Poly men’s basketball team rolled to a 79-52 season-opening victory over San Jose State in Mott Gym.
The Mustangs never trailed in the contest, using strong performances from a variety of different players, including Fermin and senior forward Will Taylor to propel Cal Poly to its third ever defeat in 18 tries against the Spartans.
Cal Poly was able to spread the wealth on offense as 11 players found the bucket on the day, but the Mustangs’ main threat came from within the post area, according to head coach Joe Callero.
“What was critical for me to see tonight was getting multiple threats from the post,” Callero said. “If we can have more than one guy as a scoring threat from the post that opens up for everything else; that weak side rebounding, that weak side penetration … We didn’t look too robotic tonight, we looked like we had good fast breaks … and we had some good half court grinding offense.”
Playing on the same floor for the first time since attending Hagerstown College in Maryland together, senior transfers Fermin and Taylor combined for a total of 29 points. Taylor grabbed a career and game-high 13 rebounds on the day to compliment his 12 points. It was his second career double-double.
“Tonight was just my night to get rebounds,” Taylor said. “Every night is not going to be my night to get rebounds, it’s going to be someone else stepping up, and I’m just gonna keep trying as hard as I can.”
The Mustangs opened the game on a 20-4 run capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore forward Chris Eversley and junior guard Dylan Royer in the game’s opening eight minutes of play.
The Spartans responded with a 16-5 run of their own over the next four minutes which cut the early lead to five. That would be the closest San Jose State would get to the Mustangs though, as Cal Poly took a 40-27 lead into halftime.
The Mustangs continued to roll after the break as they held the Spartans to just one point over the course of the second half’s opening eight minutes.
Cal Poly held the advantage on turnovers throughout the game as the Mustangs committed 12 versus San Jose State’s 17, something that Callero said he would like to see more of as the season progresses.
“We learned that we don’t have to press to force turnovers,” Callero said. “By nature, we’re better if we trap and play short corners and if we trap post action and try to get steals off of that type of action. I think we’re a real physical team.”
The Mustangs took their largest lead, 75-46, following a second-chance layup by Taylor with 3:30 remaining in the contest.
Cal Poly shot 43.8 percent from the field while holding the Spartans to only 28.6 percent on the day.
The Mustangs also showed depth on the afternoon as four players found themselves in double-figures including sophomore guard Maliik Love who had 12 points and a 10-point effort by senior center Will Donahue.
The team also dominated on the boards earning a 47-20 advantage overall, including 20 offensive rebounds to the Spartans’ five.
According to Fermin, the Mustangs played within themselves, focusing on playing behind the game plan.
“We played like a unit,” Fermin said. “We implemented what the coach really wanted us to do in the beginning of the game. We really focused on the game plan. Overall, it was a great focus that we came in with and we finished the game with the same focus we started off with.”
The 79 points scored by the Mustangs was their highest points total since prevailing at UC Irvine on Feb. 10, last year.
The Mustangs take to the floor again this Wednesday to try to open the season with back-to-back wins, something they’ve failed to do in Callero’s time at the helm, with a matchup against Cal State Bakersfield at 7 p.m. in Mott Gym.