Fox News - Fair & Balanced

Sports


Cal Poly (18-14) vs. UC Santa Barbara (19-9)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Friday, March 9, 11:59 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Honda Center (17,608) -- Anaheim, California. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Cal Poly 10-4, UC Santa Barbara 11-3. Away Record: Cal Poly 5-10, UC Santa Barbara 7-6. Neutral Record: Cal Poly 3-0, UC Santa Barbara 1-0. Conference Record: Cal Poly 8-8, UC Santa Barbara 12-4. Series Record: UC Santa Barbara 60-32.

GAMES NOTES: The third-seeded UC Santa Barbara Gauchos and the fourth-seeded Cal Poly Mustangs will meet up in the second semifinal matchup of the Big West Tournament at the Honda Center this evening.

The season series between these squads was swept by UC Santa Barbara, including a 68-60 win on the road at the end of February. The Gauchos now lead the all-time series, 60-32.

Cal Poly had an up and down season but has posted three straight wins, including an opening-round victory, to pick up some momentum entering this matchup. Cal Poly was able to emerge victorious against UC Riverside yesterday, 66-54.

UC Santa Barbara also enters this game riding a winning streak at four games. UC Santa Barbara The Gauchos blew by Pacific on Thursday, 72-52.

In a contest between teams separated by only a game in the conference standings, Cal Poly's opening round bout with fifth-seeded UC Riverside didn't look that way, at least in the second half. The Mustangs trailed 34-28 at the half but then dominated in the final twenty minutes by outscoring the Highlanders 38-20 in the second frame. Overall in the game the Mustangs shot just 42.3 percent from the floor but had an 18-9 edge on points from the free throw line and a commanding 38-22 edge on the glass.

Cal Poly's strong defensive effort was nothing new for the Mustangs who finished the season in the top 25 in the nation in points allowed per game (60.4), which offset its more pedestrian 65.1 points per game scoring average. The Mustangs don't have one dominant scorer but rather rely on spreading the ball. Amaurys Fermin (9.8 ppg, 3.7 apg) put in 16 points on Thursday, which was only the second time in the last 11 games he has scored n double figures. David Hanson (11.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg) finished the season at the top of the teams rankings in terms of scoring and netted 12 points to go along with 11 rebounds against UC Riverside.

UC Santa Barbara had an even easier time in its opening round bout in which the Gauchos routed the sixth-seed Pacific Tigers 72-52. UC Santa Barbara shot at a 45.6 percent clip in the game and knocking down 10-of-21 from beyond the arc, while forcing 16 turnovers in the blowout.

The Gaucho's do not suffer the same offensive inadequacies that hinder Cal Poly as UC Santa Barbara finished the season ranked third in the conference in both points per game (73.2 ppg) and field goal percentage (.458). UC Santa Barbara also benefits from one of the best rebounding teams in not only the conference, which the Gauchos led, but the nation where they finished 27th. Orlando Johnson (19.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) had a meager performance compared to the lofty numbers he put up this season but still led the team with 15 points while collecting only three rebounds. Johnson was the leading scorer in the Big West this season by more than two points per game. Senior forward James Nunnally (15.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) can also fill it up at a high rate. After him though, the scoring drops off, with Jaime Serna the next best option at 8.7 points per game. Freshman forward Alan Williams (6.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg) finished the season as the team's top rebounder.

UC Santa Barbara will be challenged in this matchup against one of the better defensive teams in the league. The Mustangs will have to key on Johnson and Nunnally and hope that the rest of the squad falls flat. Both of those goals will be tough to achieve.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Santa Barbara 75, Cal Poly 69

03/09 10:31:59 ET