DAYTON, Ohio – Now that Cal Poly has gotten its first NCAA victory out of the way, why stop at one?
Chris Eversley scored 19 points to help Cal Poly become the first team in 59 years with 19 losses to win an NCAA tournament game, beating Texas Southern 81-69 on Wednesday night in the First Four.
Now the team with the worst record in the tournament (14-19) moves on to face the one with the best – top-seeded Wichita State (34-0) – in the second round in St. Louis on Friday.
It’s exactly what Mustangs coach Joe Callero had hoped.
“I’m so weird that I was cheering the last five years that a 16 (seed) never upsets a 1,” he said. “Because if we ever got a bid, we’d be a 16 seed and then we’d have a chance to make real history.”
They’ve already done that.
The Mustangs were 0-3 and 4-9 early this season. They didn’t exactly inspire confidence heading into the Big West Conference tournament – losing nine of 11 – but they won the title to earn the program’s first NCAA bid.
There have been 23 teams with losing records in the NCAA tournament since 1955. The only other 19-loss team to win was Bradley (7-19), which won one game but lost in the final eight in 1955.
David Nwaba added 17 points and Brian Bennett – who was a perfect 5 for 5 from the field – had 10 for the Mustangs. The 81 points was its second most all year.
So should Wichita State be worried?
“Wichita State is a great team. They’re a national favorite. They’ve been undefeated all season,” Eversley said after flashing a quick grin when he heard the question. “We’re going to get on a plane tonight, get to St. Louis, Mo., … and go out there keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
Aaric Murray closed out his career with 38 points for Texas Southern.
“He was going to get his points either way, so we knew he would just need to take the other players out of the game,” said Nwaba, who got Cal Poly out of the blocks with eight of its first 10 points.
Tennessee 78, Iowa 65 (OT): With Jarnell Stokes using all of his 280 pounds to get an advantage inside, Tennessee pulled of the first last-minute comeback of the NCAA tournament.
Stokes dominated inside as the Volunteers finally caught up in the closing minutes of regulation, then opened overtime with a three-point play that set up a 78-65 victory over Iowa on Wednesday night, finishing off the First Four.
The Volunteers (22-12) head to Raleigh, N.C., where they’ll play sixth-seeded Massachusetts on Friday in the Midwest Regional.
Stokes’ three-point play was the key moment in his 18-point, 13-rebound performance, putting the Volunteers ahead to stay. Tennessee’s highly regarded defense took it from there, holding Iowa (21-13) to one free throw. The Hawkeyes missed all eight of their shots from the field in overtime.