The Mustangs have 19 wins to show for their past two seasons. Last season alone, Pacific notched 21 wins en route to the Big West conference tournament championship — a milestone Cal Poly hasn’t reached since the 2005-2006 season.
Cal Poly has reached the championship twice but hasn’t tasted a Big West championship victory in its 13 years in the conference.
This Friday, Cal Poly (4-8, 1-0 Big West) will host Pacific (8-5, 1-0 Big West) in a Big West hardwood showdown in Mott Gym.
The Mustangs look to build off their first Big West win and Pacific looks to build off a career performance by senior forward Joe Ford, in a 52-43 win against Cal State Northridge to open their conference schedule. But Cal Poly senior guard Lorenzo Keeler is coming off the game of his life as well, putting up 38 to lift the Mustangs over UC Irvine, 95-81, Monday night. His backcourt teammate Kyle Odister added 23 points, a season high for the freshman.
In their first season under new head coach Joe Callero, the Mustangs posted a 0-5 record to start the season on a five-game road trip. Cal Poly streaked with three-consecutive wins following the winless drought, but was silenced by another skid, losing three games that started with a 90-42 loss to Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin.
Big West conference play is their shot at turning their losing record around.
In its first of two conference games this weekend, the second coming in a game against UC Davis Sunday, Cal Poly will battle a team averages 62.8 points per game but has lost its last three of four contests.
Pacific streaked to seven wins out of the gates of the 2009-10 campaign, but since then has dropped five of its last eight games.
Forward Sam Willard, who is averaging 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, leads the Tigers on the offensive end. Behind him, guard Terrell Smith is averaging 8.7 points per game and center Michael Nunnally posts 8.2 points per game.
Ford adds 6.5 points per game and has been tagged as one of the most versatile players in the Big West. He leads the team in steals (13), blocked shots (14) and field goal percentage (.667). He’s also second on the Tigers with 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
“Joe is an energetic guy that can play point or the three spot and he helps us in so many ways,” head coach Bob Thomason said on the Tigers athletic Web site. “Joe brings us energy and activeness right as the game starts every night. I think that Joe should be a starter for us either at the one spot or the three spot.”
Top-scoring accolades for the Mustangs fall on the shoulders of Keeler. On the season, Keeler boasts a 14.7 points per game average.
Odister, who was not in the starting line-up to begin the season, will carry his momentum and hot hand into Mott Gym, hitting 48.8 percent from downtown on the season.
“Kyle has a great perimeter shot,” Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero said in a release. “(He) continues to mature and late in the game, he helped seal the victory (against UC Irvine).”
Sophomore center Will Donahue is the only other Mustang to have a double-digit point per game average. Donahue is averaging 11.8 rebounds per game to pair with 8.8 rebounds per game, but he has failed to see playing time in his past two games.
Tip-off is set for 7 Friday night.