Cal Poly campus celebrates NCAA Tournament debut

In a game where it could nearly do no wrong, Cal Poly dominates in NCAA Tournament debut and now meets undefeated and No. 1 seed Wichita State on Friday in St. Louis

jscroggin@thetribunenews.comMarch 19, 2014 

Another game. Another victory. The Mustangs continue to make history.

In its NCAA Tournament debut, the Cal Poly men’s basketball team kept its Cinderella run going strong with an 81-69 win over Texas Southern in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday.

The Mustangs, who had just 10 victories all season going into last weekend’s Big West Conference Tournament, have now won four straight elimination games and will travel to St. Louis to face undefeated Wichita State on Friday at 4:10 p.m. on CBS — looking to become the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1.

Senior forward Chris Eversley had 19 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore forward David Nwaba scored 17 for Cal Poly, which might be playing better than it ever has under fifth-year head coach Joe Callero.

“Certainly, I don’t think there’s a time in my five years that we’ve played this many consistent aggressive minutes,” Callero said in a phone interview. “We’ve had some good winning streaks and so forth, but we’ve been playing the best opponents in the biggest environments.

“When there’s the most pressure, the most on the line, we’ve played our best, and I think it’s a tribute to the character of the players.”

With Tuesday and Wednesday’s opening-round games kicking off the tournament, the Mustangs took center stage in the afternoon.

Cal Poly was a trending topic on Twitter as the nation whet its appetite before second-round games started today.

In the midst of finals week, the university hosted a viewing party at Chumash Auditorium, where students and some faculty and staff cheered the team on with thunder sticks, balloons and bargain snacks from the University Union.

“I came here because I wanted to be part of the Cal Poly spirit,” graduating senior Kait Freeberg said. “You could have gone downtown, and there would have been other people that I don’t know, but I know a ton of my friends came, professors that I know.

“I’ve seen people around sporting more Cal Poly colors, and more people are talking about it on social media. Now that we’re on the map, and people are watching us more, it’s definitely spreading school spirit, even in finals week.”

The University Union will hold another celebration for Friday’s game, when history dictates the miracle run will finally end.

It’s been a remarkable tear for the Mustangs, the first seventh-place team to ever win the Big West Tournament.

As Cal Poly entered the postseason, nobody expected the team to even win one game, but here the Mustangs are doing things that haven’t happened since the athletic program moved to the Division I level of the NCAA in 1994-95.

Callero gave all credit to the players who never quit in the face of adversity.

“The biggest thing is these guys are a bunch of ordinary kids that represent the Central Coast very well,” Callero said, “because they’re ordinary with extraordinary effort, and it represents their school and represents where they live, which is a bunch of down-to-earth people.”

Watch a video of Cal Poly students on campus celebrating Wednesday's win.

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