Dayton, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Cal Poly more than kept up with Texas Southern's fast-paced style on Wednesday as the Mustangs earned an 81-69 victory over the Tigers in their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
Cal Poly (14-19), known more for its shutdown defense than its offensive efficiency, shot a torrid 57 percent from the field in the First Four meeting between the No. 16 seeds.
"The shots just happened to fall because we're putting everyone in the right position," Cal Poly senior forward Chris Eversley said. "The same thing that got us to the Big West Tournament, it's the same reason we won tonight, just making sure we were out there being the five hardest guys playing from a mental standpoint and from a physical standpoint."
Eversley scored 19 points, Dave Nwaba netted 17 and Brian Bennett added 10 for the Mustangs, who surprisingly ran through the Big West Conference Tournament as a No. 7 seed and will head to St. Louis to face the Midwest Region's top seed, the undefeated Wichita State Shockers, on Friday.
Aaric Murray did all he could to keep the Tigers' season going, but his 38 point-effort on 14-of-23 shooting went for naught.
"Aaric is a really, really good basketball player. The whole country got a chance to witness how talented he is as a basketball player," Texas Southern head coach Mike Davis said.
Texas Southern (19-15) came in having won nine in a row, but got little help from its role players and allowed 23 points on 13 turnovers.
Murray went off for 17 points in the first half, but the rest of the Southwestern Athletic Conference champions combined to shoot 28.6 percent (4- of-14) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.
The Mustangs, who came in averaging just 63.2 ppg, were more balanced and efficient, connecting on 54.5 percent of their shots and building a double- digit lead, 38-26, with a late 11-2 run that Reese Morgan started with a 3- pointer and Eversley capped with a putback layup.
Buckets by Joel Awich and Jamal Johnson to start the second half stretched Cal Poly's lead to 48-32, and despite Murray's best efforts, the lead never dipped below eight until the closing minutes.
Jose Rodriguez's three-point play near the midway point had the Tigers within 59-51, but consecutive jumpers from Bennett rebuilt the double-digit margin.
Rodriguez missed in the lane for a chance to pull within six with just over four minutes to play, and at the other end, Eversley drained a momentum- stopping 3-pointer.
The closest it got from there was six, and the Mustangs made enough free throws down the stretch to close out their monumental victory.
Cal Poly is the first Big West program to win an NCAA Tournament game since Pacific topped Pittsburgh in the first round in 2005 ... The Mustangs shot 61.1 percent (11-of-18) from the field in the second half ... Texas Southern, playing in its first NCAA Tournament since 2003, fell to 0-5 in the event ... This was the first-ever meeting between the programs.