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CAL POLY EARNS HISTORIC NCAA TOURNAMENT WIN IN FIRST FOUR
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ST. LOUIS – Junior guard Maliik Love finished with a team-leading nine points, but the Cal Poly men's basketball program saw its inaugural NCAA Division I Tournament run come to a close inside the Scottrade Center on Friday evening as the 16th-seeded Mustangs were eliminated in the Midwest Regional by No. 1 seed Wichita State in second-round action, 64-37.
Senior forward Chris Eversley added six points in his final collegiate appearance for Cal Poly (14-20), which was bidding to become the first No. 16 seed in 119 attempts to topple a No. 1, but was limited to a 20.7 (12-for-58) percent field goal mark. Meanwhile, Wichita State – the first program to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since UNLV in 1991 and the first 35-0 team in NCAA Tournament history – shot 46.0 (23-for-50) percent.
Cal Poly (14-19), which qualified for its first NCAA Division I Tournament by winning three Big West Conference Tournament games in three days as the No. 7 seed, advanced to Friday's matchup after outdueling fellow No. 16 seed Texas Southern in the First Four on Wednesday, 81-69. That First Four victory by the Mustangs was the first NCAA Tournament win by a Big West Conference program in nine years and the first postseason win by Cal Poly since the 1982 NCAA Division II Tournament West Regional.
During the first and only meeting between the two programs since Dec. 28, 1976, an Eversley three-pointer 75 seconds into action provided Cal Poly the quick lead, but Wichita State – backboned by 12 points from senior forward Cleanthony Early – responded with a 21-3 run.
The Mustangs, held to a six (1-for-17) percent shooting start, finally broke Wichita State's spurt with a three-pointer from senior guard Kyle Odister. Still leading 21-8 at the seven-and-a-half minute mark, however, the Shockers added nine points without reply to further their lead to 30-8 with five minutes remaining in the first half.
Cal Poly managed to hold Wichita State to one field goal the remainder of the half and Odister added a layup and Eversley a three-point play in the final minutes. However, the 32-13 scoreline at the break marked the second-lowest halftime total by Cal Poly squad at the Division I level.
A three-pointer and free throw from Mustang senior guard Jamal Johnson to open the second half helped Cal Poly halve its deficit to 34-17 with 18-and-a-half minutes to play. The Shockers, however, held Cal Poly without a field goal for the ensuing five minutes in building a 44-17 lead.
Despite the deficit, Cal Poly was able to make one final push. Trailing 50-23 with 10 minutes left, the Mustangs received successive layups from Love before freshman guard Ridge Shipley sank a three-pointer to cut the Shocker lead to 20 points.
Wichita State though, scored the next 10 points to keep the game out of reach.
With Friday's decision, Cal Poly saw the careers of three seniors come to a close.
Eversley – the 2014 Big West Tournament Most Valuable Player selection and a two-time all-conference honoree – departs ranked 12th all-time with 1,192 points and ninth in program history with 609 rebounds.
Johnson, Cal Poly's all-time appearances leader with 128 games played, leaves the program ranked seventh in Cal Poly program history with 303 assists
Odister, a 38.7 (176-for-455) percent career three-point shooter, leaves ranked fifth all-time in total three-pointers (176) and sixth in attempts (455).
All three seniors will graduate this spring.
Photo courtesy of Ian Billings / Mustang News