Ian Billings/
Staff Photographer.

“We’ve got to play our best game,” head coach Joe Callero said.

Stephan Teodosescu

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Coming off three straight losses in conference play, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team is set to face rival UC Santa Barbara for the second time in less than a week — this time in a win-or-go-home game with a Big West tournament semifinal spot on the line.

The Gauchos ran away from Cal Poly this past Saturday with a 71-55 victory at Mott Athletics Center to hand the Mustangs their 10th loss in the past 14 games in Big West play. Cal Poly will now have a shot at redemption as the No. 7 Mustangs will try to knock off the No. 2 Gauchos starting Thursday at noon in the Honda Center.

“We’ve got to play our best game,” head coach Joe Callero said. “We started off the year 3-0 in conference play. We really want to finish off 3-0.”

Cal Poly (10-19, 6-10 Big West) began Big West play by winning four of its first five games, including a 72-64 victory at UC Santa Barbara (21-8, 12-4) in January. Since then, both teams have gone in opposite directions.

The Gauchos have won 12 of their games since that matchup at The Thunderdome, while Cal Poly has managed just four victories.

“Right now, everybody is 0-0,” Callero said. “Our seniors know that, our juniors know that, the coaching staff knows that. We’re as optimistic as we can be because we know what we’re capable of.”

Cal Poly is 2-2 all-time against UC Santa Barbara at the Big West tourney, which most recently includes a 2012 loss in the semifinal round for the Mustangs.

But despite a rocky finish to league play this year, Cal Poly is confident entering Thursday’s matchup, according to senior guard Jamal Johnson.

“We’ve played Santa Barbara and we’ve beat Santa Barbara before,” Johnson said. “I don’t think anybody in our locker room questions our ability to play with anybody in this conference.”

The winner of the Big West Conference Tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Cal Poly’s quarterfinal matchup will be televised live on Fox Prime Ticket, while the semifinals are scheduled for ESPN3 and ESPNU and the championship for ESPN2.

You can also follow @CPMustangSports on Twitter for live coverage.

Evan Morter contributed to this article.

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