DAYTON, Ohio — Senior forward Chris Eversley scored 19 points, and sophomore guard David Nwaba added 17 points to lift Cal Poly past Texas Southern 81-69 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game between two No. 16 seeds on Tuesday night at University of Dayton Arena.
Cal Poly (14-19) advances to face No. 1 seed Wichita State (34-0) on Friday in St. Louis.
Senior forward Aaric Murray had a monster game for Texas Southern (19-15), scoring 38 points. He made 14 of 23 shots from the floor, including three of five 3-pointers, and he went 7-for-7 from the foul line.
Cal Poly, which finished seventh in the Big West Conference before winning the league tournament, played confidently on Tuesday’s big stage.
Sophomore guard Reese Morgan hit two crucial second-half 3-pointers for the Mustangs and finished with nine points. Sophomore center Brian Bennett added 10 points for Cal Poly.
The Mustangs led by 12 points at halftime and played well in all facets, sans defending Murray, who was the best player on the court throughout the night.
Texas Southern’s 10th turnover resulted in senior guard Jamal Johnson’s layup that gave the Mustangs a 48-32 lead with 18 minutes left.
The Tigers switched things up on defense, forcing five quick Cal Poly turnovers and cut the deficit to nine.
A three-point play by Texas Southern junior guard Jose Rodriguez made the score 59-51. Rodriguez finished with 14 points.
Early on, Cal Poly had difficulty containing the 6-foot-10 Murray, who began the game with three dunks, including a thunderous one-handed jam in transition. He scored 17 points in the first half.
However, the Mustangs hardly were intimidated.
Freshman guard Ridge Shipley buried a 3-pointer just ahead of the shot-clock buzzer to put Cal Poly ahead 25-19. Despite Texas Southern’s size advantage, the Mustangs managed to outscore them 20-16 in the paint in the first half.
Sophomore forward Joel Awich gave Cal Poly its largest lead of the half, 32-24, with a transition dunk. Later, Nwaba’s dunk from the baseline put the Mustangs in front 44-30.
Cal Poly was a model of efficiency in the first half with one turnover and 10 assists.
NOTES: Texas Southern made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. … Tigers C Aaric Murray scored 48 points in a 90-89 win over Temple on Dec. 18, the highest individual point total in Division I this season. … The two schools met for the first time. … Cal Poly, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance, is the 20th team with a losing record to reach the tournament. “If we win the national championship we’ll have a winning record, 20-19,” Mustangs coach Joe Callero said this week. “We need to win seven straight.” … Cal Poly became the lowest seeded team (No. 7) to win the Big West Conference tournament.
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