Sponsored by AND-1, it was a group of ankle-breaking hoopsters that would battle for bragging rights in a game not oriented toward point total, but toward piecing together the most crowd-pleasing crossover.
But, hidden beneath the high-flying alley-oops and windmill dunks, was a physical element filled with elbows and two-handed shoves.
That is what senior guard Lorenzo Keeler compared this week’s contest against Cal State Fullerton to — a game of streetball.
Thursday night, Cal Poly (5-9, 2-1 Big West) will travel to Cal State Fullerton (7-7, 2-1 Big West) to take on the Titans.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Keeler said. “They want to get us like NBA Jam, they want to get the ball and push it and they want to dunk … its going to be a fun, fun, tough game.”
Fullerton opened conference play on Jan. 2 with a 67-63 loss at UC Davis.
Jacques Streeter and Aaron Thompson lead the team, each averaging 10.9 points per game. Jer’Vaughn Johnson checks in with 10.1 points and Devon Peltier averages 9.0. Johnson leads the team in rebounding with 6.1 a game.
The Titans opened the season with an impressive win when they defeated Pac-10 powerhouse UCLA on Nov. 16, 68-65 in double overtime.
The Mustangs will embark on their fourth road trip of the season. Thursday’s contest will tally Cal Poly’s 10th road game of the season, compared to the five they have played in Mott Gym.
“When you’re traveling it kind of wears on your body,” Keeler said. “Airplanes, hotels, long bus rides, it wears on your body a little bit, but coach (Callero) does a great job of not over-working us, we have a nice little plan every time we get to where we’re going and usually we come out ready for the game.”
Despite Callero’s plans, the road has not been kind to the Mustangs. Cal Poly has a combined 2-8 record off its home court.
“We want to win every game and to steal one on the road is huge. . .if we beat them we’re alone in third place,” Keeler said. “Any road win is a great win. We’re jut looking to go in there, give it all we got, leave everything on the court and hopefully come away with the win.”
Cal Poly was projected to finish last in the Big West at the beginning of the season. The Mustangs finished last season with a 3-13 record in conference and a 7-21 record overall, with an incoming coaching staff at the helm of this season.
Despite weak results outside of the Big West, the Mustangs have opened their conference campaign 2-1.
“I am not surprised we are having success, but I am pleased we are,” Callero said. “In conference play, its about getting the (wins)… Ultimately to climb into the playoffs we have to get (wins) in the win/loss column of the Big West.”
The Mustangs lead the conference in six statistical categories heading into the game against the Titans.
Callero doesn’t take merit in early season statistics. He said he would wait until his team plays all conference opponents to assess his team’s chances.
“You got to look at your sample size and our sample size is three games,” Callero said.
Junior guard Shawn Lewis has made eight of his last 10 shots, including four three point attempts.
“Shawn’s shooting percentage is very similar to Lorenzo, they both really found their rhythm of when to shoot,” Callero said. “Shooting percentages is very rarely ‘can I make a shot?’ it’s ‘when can I take the shot?’”
Keeler, the reigning conference player of the week, is the Big West’s leading scorer. The senior is averaging 26 points per game in conference play and stands six points ahead of the Big West’s second leading scorer UC Davis’ Dominic Calegari.
“We look forward to the challenge and we are going to take care of business,” Keeler said.