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Cal Poly makes history at UD Arena

The NCAA tournament team with the most losses has a date against the team with the fewest.

Cal Poly, the 23rd team to make the tournament with a losing record, knocked off Texas Southern 81-69 in a battle of Midwest Region 16 seeds Wednesday night in the First Four at UD Arena, earning the right to play undefeated No. 1 seed Wichita State on Friday.

The Mustangs hit 10 of their first 14 shots and led for the final 33 minutes to secure the first NCAA tournament win in program history.

They also made some national history by becoming the first team with 19 or more losses to advance in the tournament since Bradley ini 1955.

Siena (2002) and Oakland (Mich.) (2005) were 18-loss teams who won recent opening-round games in Dayton.

Cal Poly stood 10-19 heading into the Big West tournament as the No. 7 seed, but the Mustangs got hot and won a pair of close ones. They beat UC Irvine 61-58 in the semifinals and Cal State Northridge 61-59 in the final to earn the trip to Dayton, where the team stayed hot by hitting a season-high 57 percent (29 of 51) from the floor.

The Mustangs came in shooting 41 percent for the season and had topped 50 percent in one of its 32 previous games, but they put three players in double figures and 10 in the scoring column.

Iowa and Tennessee played the late game in a battle of Midwest Region 11 seeds vying for the right to advance and play No. 6 Massachusetts on Friday in Raleigh, N.C. It did not end in time for inclusion in this edition.

Quotable: “Maybe sounds arrogant, but I did (believe this could happen),” Cal Poly coach Joe Callero said. “I completely believed in our players the entire time. And now we go play a No. 1 seed and get more national recognition for Cal Poly. Our kids deserve it. This is special because of the institution. Such a high academic institution. And sometimes people look like, oh, you just got a bunch of smart kids out there; you can’t get to the tournament. It’s been 20 years. Cal Poly has been Division I for 20 years, and now we will have two more days of national exposure for Cal Poly.”

Wednesday’s star: Texas Southern senior Aaric Murray was clearly the best player on the floor with 38 points, but the 6-foot-10 center was a nonfactor on the boards with two rebounds, and he took 23 shots without a single assist.

Meanwhile, Cal Poly senior forward Chris Eversley was active all over the floor with 19 points on 6 of 9 shooting to go along with nine rebounds.

Key stat: In addition to the hot shooting, Cal Poly committed one turnover in the first half. The Mustangs got a little sloppy in the second half and finished with 10 turnovers, but their sure-handed first half gave them enough wiggle room after building a double-digit lead.

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