michael mullady

The Central Coast rivalry between Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara will be the hot topic this weekend as the men’s basketball team hosts the Gauchos at 4 p.m. in Mott Gym on Saturday.

Cal Poly, coming off a 65-52 loss to UC Davis last Saturday, looks to end a three-game losing streak this weekend against the last-place Gauchos.

“I’ve been telling our guys all week, I think it’s a big game,” Bromley said. “I think it’s a big game in that we have a chance to go 3-2 and beat a team that some picked third and others picked fourth in the conference. And it’s kind of that rivalry game.”

The game will also act as a catalyst for what will be a four-game home stand for the Mustangs, Bromley said. Mott Gym has felt like anything but home this season for the Mustangs. The team is 2-4 at Mott Gym, with both wins against Division II teams.

Following the game on Saturday, the Mustangs will host the University of the Pacific, Cal State Northridge and UC Davis, the first two being Big West Conference games.

The Gauchos have a slight edge in record against common opponents with one more win than the Mustangs, but UCSB has the worst loss between the two, losing to UC Riverside to give the Highlanders their first win of the season. Since the loss, the Gauchos are 2-2 with wins against Long Beach State and UC Davis.

“They’re 1-3 right now, it would put them at 1-4 so I know their backs are against the wall,” Bromley said.

Overall, the game should be evenly matched. However, Bromley is confident with the match-ups his team has with the Gauchos.

One of the sore spots for the Mustangs this season has been turnovers, averaging 16.7 per game as a team. Bromley said he expects to see a number of different defensive looks from the Gauchos and some trapping to try and unnerve Cal Poly’s young backcourt.

Where the Mustangs could have an advantage is quickness, Bromley said. Bromley described the Gauchos as a “very physical, screening basketball team. They’re a jump shot shooting team, and a post-up team.”

Cal Poly forward Gabe Stephenson will draw primary defensive duties at the low post on Saturday and expects to guard a familiar foe, Cameron Goettsche. Goettsche and Stephenson both played prep ball in Colorado and, after dueling in the high school ranks, will square off for the first time in college.

“He had eight dunks in a game in high school so he can definitely get to the rim,” Stephenson said.

Goettsche averages 7.6 points per game for the Gauchos and leads the team in blocks with 19.

“I think that our inside guys have shown that we can shut down good inside players like what we did to Jamal Brown down at Fullerton,” Stephenson said.

One bright note for the team is the re-emergence of Titus Shelton. Shelton missed the non-conference schedule with a stress fracture, but has returned to the rotation for Big West play. So far, the freshman has averaged 16 minutes, 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in three games.

Shelton’s presence at the low post will benefit the Mustangs because the Gauchos like to play a physical style of basketball, Bromley said.

The Mustangs will be without the services of several injured players. Travis Busch is still on crutches with a stress fracture to his foot while Coby Leavitt is out with the same injury. Clayton Osborne is also nursing an ankle injury and may miss Saturday’s game, Bromley said.

“We’ve had to make some adjustments with Coby and Travis out. We’re starting to try and stick with what we’ve been doing and we’re running a delay-action down on the offensive end because we haven’t had the depth. It gives us a chance, maybe just for three seconds to rest on the offensive end so we have energy on the defensive end.”

Though the rivalry is on the players’ minds, Stephenson said the game has even larger implications for the Big West standings.

“We’re going to be pumped up,” Stephenson said. “It’s a big rivalry, but it’s also a big game for us and where we are in the conference right now. We have a chance to put them down at the bottom of the conference and put us up near the top.”

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