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, an Enumclaw grad who was captain at Central Washington, had hoped.
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“I’m so weird that I was cheering the last five years that a 16 (seed) never upsets a 1,” said Callero, who coached at Seattle University and Puget Sound. “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, who also feature former Husky Paul Fortier as an assistant coach, 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 a 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. Held back by injuries all season, a team that shot 41 percent from the field for the season saved its best for last by making 57 percent on the biggest stage. The 81 points was its second most in a game 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 just go start on a scouting report and make sure we’re ready for Wichita State — and go out there and keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
Aaric Murray closed out his career with 38 points for Texas Southern (19-15), champs of the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament.
• Jarnell Stokes dominated inside as Tennessee finally caught up in the closing minutes of regulation, and then opened overtime with a three-point play that got the Volunteers headed to a 78-65 victory over Iowa in the NCAA’s First Four.
The Volunteers’ late comeback sent them to Raleigh, N.C., where they’ll play sixth-seeded Massachusetts on Friday in the Midwest Regional.
Tennessee (22-12) didn’t lead until Antonio Barton’s three-pointer put the Vols up 59-57 with 3:05 left in regulation. There were five lead changes before the Vols’ Jordan McRae missed a jumper at the buzzer, leaving it tied at 64.
Stokes’ three-point play was the key moment in his 18-point, 13-rebound performance. Iowa (21-13) managed only one free throw in overtime, ending a hectic and stressful day for coach Fran McCaffery. McCaffery started the day in Iowa with his teenage son Patrick, who had surgery to remove a thyroid tumor.