Cal Poly, Tenn. advance in NCAA
DAYTON, Ohio — Earlier this week, Cal Poly coach Joe Callero surmised that his Mustangs would finish with a winning record if they won the national championship.
“We need to win seven straight,” Callero quipped.
Well, only six more to go.
Senior forward Chris Eversley scored 19 points, and sophomore guard David Nwaba added 17 points to lift Cal Poly past the Texas Southern Tigers 81-69 in a first-round NCAA Tournament game between two No. 16 seeds Tuesday night at University of Dayton Arena.
It was the first-ever NCAA Tournament win for Cal Poly (14-19), which now advances to face No. 1 seed Wichita State (34-0) on Friday in St. Louis.
“We got a lot of text messages and calls congratulating us for making the NCAA Tournament,” Callero said. “It’s one thing to make it. It’s another thing to do something while you’re there.”
Advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament seemed unfathomable a week ago for the Mustangs, who finished seventh in the Big West Conference before winning three games in three days to capture the league tournament title.
On Tuesday, Cal Poly played confidently for 40 minutes on its biggest stage. The Mustangs also were a model for efficiency, shooting 56.9 percent with 15 assists, and committing just one turnover in the first half.
“We executed the game plan by moving the ball side to side and making their defense shift,” Eversley said. “It made our offense like a well-trained orchestra. Everybody’s playing different instruments, but together we sound great.”
Sophomore guard Reese Morgan hit two crucial second-half 3-pointers for the Mustangs and finished with nine points. “It’s great having Reese back on the court,” said Nwaba. “He’s battled injury all year. He knocked down some big shots.”
Sophomore center Brian Bennett added 10 points for Cal Poly, which led by 12 points at halftime and played well in all facets, sans defending Texas Southern senior forward Aaric Murray, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
Murray had a monster game Tuesday 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.
When asked if Wichita State should be concerned heading into Friday’s second round matchup, Eversley was careful not to hand the Shockers any added incentive.
“Wichita State is a great team,” he said. “They’ve been undefeated all year for a reason. We just have to worry about ourselves and play the way we’ve been playing.”
Tennessee 78, Iowa 65 (OT)
Jarnell Stokes recorded 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Tennessee pulled away in overtime to beat Iowa in the first round of the Midwest Regional at Dayton, Ohio.
Jordan McRae led the way with 20 points for 11th seed Tennessee (22-12), which will play sixth-seeded Massachusetts in the second round Friday at Raleigh, N.C. Josh Richardson chipped in with 17 points and Antonio Barton had 10 while the Volunteers outscored Iowa 14-1 in the extra period.
Adam Woodbury registered a career-high 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Iowa (20-13), which led by as much as 12 early on and lost for the seventh time in its last eight games. Peter Jok had 10 points and leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble was held to seven points on 3-of-15 shooting for the Hawkeyes.
Iowa scored 16 of the game’s first 20 before the Volunteers slowly climbed back in it by recording the final seven, capped by a McRae floater at the buzzer, to get within 29-26 at intermission. Barton drained a 3-pointer with 3:06 remaining to give the Volunteers their first lead at 59-57, but Marble answered with a three-point play.
Stokes made a free throw for a 64-62 lead before Marble tied the game on a jumper with 17.9 seconds left in the second half. Tennessee missed a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but Stokes started overtime with a three-point play, McRae made a layup and the Volunteers were on their way.