Determined to up the win column of their 1-15 record against its Western Athletic Conference foe, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team succeeded, and then some, with an 83-69 victory over Utah State Thursday evening.
Junior center Tyler Shelton scored two quick shots in consecutive Cal Poly possessions to begin the contest in Poly’s home opener- the tempo was set from the get-go as 2,475 fans looked on. The Mustangs were hungry and the evidence is in the statistics as four players crossed the double-digit plateau.
“They were one team willing to come here probably because they’ve had a lot of success. They’re probably not really fearful of us,” head coach Kevin Bromley said of Utah State, a previous Big West competitor who Bromley says “owned the conference.”
From the looks of the game, it is safe to say that the Mustang scouting report was evidently thorough. On offense, Poly kept the court spread and worked the shot clock and it kept an eye on Aggies All-American Jaycee Carroll on defense.
In the 2006-07 season, Utah went 19-4 when Carroll, the senior guard named this year’s WAC preseason Player of the Year, scored more than 20 a contest and went 6-9 when he did not.
Poly held Carroll to a quiet 18.
Bromley explained that his team isolated him while on offense, forcing him to play defense and this shocked his energy while on offense.
“We did a great job guarding him,” said Shelton, who shared a team high 19-point tally with sophomore reserve guard Lorenzo Keeler.
“He has no problem coming off the bench. He’s an unselfish person and he just wants us to win basketball games,” Bromley said of Keeler. In his first game at Mott Gym, Keeler went 6-9 from the floor, 5-7 from the 3-point line and racked up four assists in just 16 minutes of play. The man has talent and he’s not afraid to show it in front of a home crowd.
“I’m proud of him. He’s a big time player and makes big shots,” Bromley added.
Along with Keeler and Shelton, guards Chaz Thomas and Dawin Whiten contributed 14 and 17 respectively for Poly. Thomas was the spark to several Poly runs throughout the contest, most notably when he slashed through the lane and sunk an and-1 floater to put Poly ahead 38-36. His reaction was passionate and the crowd’s as well when he hit a three the next possession. Shortly after, he had an out of nowhere steal that led to a Whiten three-pointer, the old fashioned way, to put Poly up 44-36.
And they never looked back.
“Any day, we have good enough players who can take over on a play,” Shelton said. When asked if their strategy was to pack the inside, Shelton said his team planned to run an inside, outside attack.
The team shot better from behind the arch (48 percent) than in total field goals (44.3 percent) and also it had 18 points in the paint.
“We had a solid advantage in the post so we just decided to attack,” Shelton said.
Of the many long balls put up by the Mustangs, Bromley said, “The three is definitely an effective shot that can give you an advantage against quicker, faster, stronger basketball teams. It’s a neutralizer.” He said that his team does not live or die by the three, they’re good at shooting it, and it pays off.
Several Mustang players had smiles on their faces throughout the contest and rightly so. Happiness is a warm win against a hot team.
“It’s a heck of a win,” Bromley said.