Within the friendly confines of McKeon Pavilion, which has been good to the 4-0 Gaels, Saint Mary’s will battle Cal Poly in an effort to improve to 5-0.
Date: Saturday, November 29, 2014
Location: McKeon Pavilion, Moraga, California
Time: 7:00 PM MT
TV: Comcast Hometown Network (Northern California only)
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Meet Cal Poly (2-2)
Cal Poly shocked the Big West Conference and the college basketball world by winning its conference tournament as a seven-seed and advancing to the NCAA tournament last season. However, the Mustangs have seemingly fallen back to earth this season despite returning several key players.
The Mustangs find themselves at 2-2 at this early stage in the season, with home wins against Delaware and San Francisco State (D-II) and road losses against Nevada and California. Both their wins were by double-digits and both their losses were by double-digits, and unfortunately for the Mustangs, the Gaels are closer to the talent level of California and Nevada than the talent level Delaware and the San Francisco State.
But it’s not like the Mustangs do not stand a chance against SMC; Cal Poly returns several key players from last season that can give the Gaels some fits.
In particular, Daniel Nwaba – a 6-foot-4 guard/forward – can stir up the trouble for the Gaels. He is strong, athletic and very active on both the offensive and defensive glass (5.3 RPG), despite being 6-foot-4. I would expect the Gaels will stick Kerry Carter on Nwaba and try and keep him on the perimeter and out of the interior.
Joining Nwaba in the backcourt is Ridge Shipley, Maliik Love, Michael Bolden, Kyle Toth and Reese Morgan. Love is the one who runs the offense, and his 5.0 assists per game are a testament to that. Shipley is more of a complimentary piece to the offense, while Shipley, Toth and Bolden will likely give solid minutes of the bench.
In the frontcourt, Brian Bennett and Joel Awich are the focal points. Bennett is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, while Awich is the team’s best rim protector. Both players are very active on the glass, and their combined 11.0 rebounds per game speak to that. The Mustangs can slide Nwaba down to one of the forward spots if needed, and expect Anthony Silvestri
Overall, Cal Poly will look to control the glass, push the ball inside and slow the tempo. The Mustangs average a measly 61.0 points and 59.5 possessions, which rank 288th and 345th in the nation respectively. The Mustangs are also an abysmal shooting team, with a field goal percentage of 37.4 (315th in the nation) and a 3-point percentage of 27.9 (300th in the nation). The Gaels can stymy Cal Poly’s offense by keeping the Mustangs out of the paint and forcing them to shoot jump shots.
The Mustangs are a tough-nosed squad, but the Gaels have too many weapons and should prevail in this contest. Gaels 69, Mustangs 52.
Bold Prediction: Joe Coleman records double-digit points for the first time as a Gael, scoring 16 points.