Cal Poly basketball fans will have two opportunities to watch the Mustangs at home this week before the team kicks off a six-game road trip that will last the rest of December.
Coming off a 30-point win over NAIA opponent Antelope Valley last Saturday — its fourth consecutive victory — Cal Poly is scheduled to host IPFW at 7 p.m. Thursday and Fresno State at 7 p.m. Saturday inside Mott Athletics Center.
From there, the Mustangs (4-2) will travel to Saint Mary’s, USC, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UT San Antonio during an eight-day stretch. The team will have a few days off for Christmas before returning to the Lone Star State to play Texas A&M on Dec. 29.
Big West Conference play begins the following week, with Cal Poly traveling to Hawaii on Jan. 6.
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“That’s where we’re going to find out our depth and our character — during that stretch,” head coach Joe Callero said.
For now, Cal Poly’s attention is on protecting its home court against a pair of talented incoming opponents.
The IPFW Mastodons (6-2) are coming off a 75-53 loss to Navy their last time out, a result that ended IPFW’s six-game winning streak. Junior guard Mo Evans scored a game-high 19 points in the setback, helping him earn Summit League player of the week honors.
The junior guard from Indianapolis leads the Mastodons in scoring at 14.6 points per game, 3-pointers made (20) and assists (4.1 per contest). Cal Poly won the only previous meeting between the two schools, 71-57, on the road last December.
Callero also mentioned Mustang players have spent the week preparing for final exams that begin next Monday, adding another wrinkle into an already busy portion of the season.
“So there’s going to be some intensity and some commitment we’re going to need over the next three weeks,” Callero said. “And I think it’s going to be tremendously challenging.”
Fresno State (5-1) ranks among the most difficult opponents Cal Poly will face this winter. The Bulldogs lost their first game of the season at No. 15-ranked Oregon on Monday and have a physically gifted leader in senior guard Marvelle Harris.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Harris is averaging 19.8 points per game and also leads the team in free-throw shooting (80 percent), assists (32) and steals (14). The two-time all-Mountain West Conference selection was chosen as the conference’s preseason player of the year, and he scored all 18 of his points against Oregon during a frantic second-half rally.
The matchup between Cal Poly and Fresno State has historically been one-sided in the Bulldogs’ favor. Fresno State, which has qualified for the NCAA Tournament five times in program history, has won 16 of the past 17 meetings with the Mustangs, including six consecutive victories in San Luis Obispo.
Cal Poly’s last win at home in the series came on Feb. 4, 1971.
“It’s going to be much tougher pretty quick,” Callero said.
Senior forward Joel Awich has played a leading role in helping the Mustangs average 77 points per game this season, the most in Callero’s tenure. As the only player to reach double-digit scoring in all six games, Awich ranks sixth in the Big West by scoring 15.5 points per contest.
That number is nearly double his scoring output from last season, when Awich averaged a then-career best 8.7 points per game.