Nick Camacho

The Cal Poly men’s basketball team has won four of its last five games despite playing Saturday without its most consistent post player.

Starting sophomore forward/center Titus Shelton had to sit out the Mustangs’ 79-68 win at Cal State Northridge in a game televised Saturday night on Fox Sports Net because of a sprained ankle. Shelton was forced to rest for three to four days, head coach Kevin Bromley said, but that he should be available for Saturday’s 7 p.m. nonconference game at UC Davis.

“He should be ready for the Davis game,” Bromley said Monday at a weekly athletics department press conference. “It didn’t look like it’s really severe. There wasn’t a lot of swelling. We got an MRI and X-rays on it and that was all negative. We’ve just got to get him back.”

Shelton started the first 18 games of the season for Cal Poly (10-9, 3-4 Big West Conference), which appears to have shaken the road bug with two wins in its last three road games after an 0-6 start away from Mott Gym this season.

Shelton averages 8.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

Bromley was pleased with the way those who filled in for Shelton performed Saturday.

Cal Poly outrebounded Cal State Northridge, which entered as the Big West’s top team on the glass, by a 42-41 margin.

“The sign was that (Shelton) has good teammates with high character,” Bromley said. “John (Manley), Joe (Henry), (Derek) Stockalper and Dreshawn (Vance) did a great job on the glass and filled that void.”

Those four players combined for 22 points and 23 rebounds.

“Dreshawn was active on the glass,” Bromley said. “John, Joe and Stock were absolute men on the glass. That’s one of our weaknesses right now. To outrebound them was absolutely terrific.”

Henry, a senior forward, was one of the first two players off the bench. He came up with four boards, one steal and took two charges in 20 minutes.

“It feels good,” Henry said at the press conference of the last five games. “We’re really excited. We’re happy with the way we’ve been playing but we’re not satisfied. We still have a lot of improving to do. We’re excited to get back to work.”

Henry said a rivalry exists between the Mustangs and Aggies, although UC Davis – transitioning from the Division II ranks – will not officially join the Big West until next season.

“Even though it doesn’t count toward the (conference) standings,” Henry said, “it still is a rivalry. For whatever reason, when Cal Poly plays UC Davis, there’s always a little extra effort put into that on both sides.”

The Aggies are 4-15 overall largely because of their 1-9 mark on the road. But after a 72-68 loss at Cal Poly on Jan. 11, UC Davis came up with surprising wins at UC Santa Barbara (70-66) and in double overtime at home against Cal State Northridge (93-88).

Rebounding has been a glaring weakness for UC Davis, which is getting beat on the boards by a 39.1-32.2 average per game.

Saturday’s outing is Cal Poly’s last on the road until a Feb. 22 contest at UC Riverside.

Six of the Mustangs’ last eight regular-season games are at home, including four straight from Feb. 8 to 17. One of those home games is an ESPNU Bracket Buster contest against visiting Portland State (13-8, 4-4 Big Sky Conference), which was announced Tuesday.

Henry considers it pivotal to finish in the top half of the eight-team conference’s standings because those teams get a first-round bye in the Big West tourney, which runs from March 7 to 10 in Anaheim. The top two seeds, in fact, have to win only two games at the tourney to reach the NCAA Tournament.

And for a team that has won four of its last five games overall, postseason play is already being pondered.

“We want to get to the highest position we can and (to) get a bye on that first day of the tournament is a big deal,” Henry said. “You only have to play two games to get into the championship as opposed to three.”

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