GAME NOTES: The 39th annual Big West Conference Tournament kicks into gear this afternoon at the Honda Center in Anaheim, as the Cal Poly Mustangs clash with the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in quarterfinals action.
Cal Poly, which has never won the title in this event and is still waiting to be invited to the NCAA Tournament for the first time, is the seventh seed this season after posting a conference mark of 6-10. The Mustangs have won a total of just two times in the last 11 outings, the most recent conquest coming against UC Riverside (69-64) at home on Feb. 22.
As for the second-seeded Gauchos, they enter the postseason having won this tournament three times, most recently in back-to-back years (2010-11) against Long Beach State both times. Sporting a record of 20-27 in the tourney overall, UCSB closed out the regular season with three straight wins and five in the last six outings, the latest triumph coming against this same Cal Poly squad last weekend, 71-55.
The series between the teams dates back to 1937 and consists of 103 meetings, with UCSB owning a commanding 70-33 advantage after splitting the two regular- season bouts.
The winner this time around will be back in action on Friday in the semifinals against an opponent to be determined, based on the teams remaining and their seedings heading into the event.
Less than a week ago the Mustangs hosted UCSB and were pounded by the visitors by 16 points. The final margin of victory may not have been that great, but the fact that Cal Poly shot a mere 29.8 percent from the floor had to have been a major concern. Over the course of 16 conference outings, the team generated a mere 61.8 ppg, shooting just 39.3 percent from the floor along the way. Chris Eversley topped the scoring list with 13.4 ppg, but his accuracy from the field was just 38.8 percent. However, what he lacked in shooting, he countered with a strong effort on the glass (7.4 rpg). Dave Nwaba (11.8 ppg) was responsible for another 5.2 rpg, which means the rest of the roster combined for less than 20 rpg in conference.
Earlier this week the Big West announced the all-conference teams and the player of the year and it should come as no surprise to find that Alan Williams took home tome honors for the Gauchos. Scoring in double figures 26 times during the season, Williams led the league in scoring with 21.6 ppg as he converted 53.8 percent from the floor. But Williams didn't stop there as he also paced the conference and was second nationally in rebounding with 11.6 rpg as well, making him one of only a handful of players to average a double- double in 2013-14. Adding some offensive support beyond Williams were Michael Bryson and Kyle Boswell with 11.2 and 10.7 ppg, respectively, for a squad that was outscoring the opposition by 7.2 ppg.
It is hard to imagine this tournament moving forward without Williams and the Gauchos being an integral part of the plan. Barring any unforeseen issues, UCSB has to be considered a potential tourney champion.
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