Anaheim, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Despite being seven games below .500 on the season, the Cal Poly Mustangs have fought their way into the championship round of the Big West Conference Tournament against the Cal State Northridge Matadors at the Honda Center tonight.
Only twice before have the Mustangs, this year's seventh seed, made it to the title game of the Big West Tournament and both times the squad has been turned around. But the team has already jumped the biggest hurdles to reach the championship, having beaten second-seeded UC Santa Barbara in a massive 69-38 upset on Thursday and then taking down top-seeded UC Irvine, 61-58, last night.
With a victory tonight the Mustangs would become the lowest seed in the 39- year history of the event to claim the championship, not to mention make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Division I history.
In the case of fifth-seeded Cal State Northridge, a squad that won it all back in 2009 with a 71-66 overtime victory against Pacific, it has been involved in a couple of high-scoring, albeit close, games in this year's event. The Matadors began with an 87-84 overtime affair versus Hawaii on Thursday night, and then followed that with an 82-77 win over third-seeded Long Beach State last night.
Cal Poly leads the all-time series by a 50-43 margin, but when it comes to games played at the Division I level, the advantage moves to CSUN at 19-13. The Mustangs have won four in a row now, thanks to a 62-55 victory a day before Valentine's Day on the road.
Chris Eversley and Dave Nwaba led the offensive attack for Cal Poly as they tallied 14 points each, the former grabbing seven rebounds and the latter hitting on 4-of-5 shots from the floor and a perfect 6-of-6 at the free-throw line. Also scoring in double figures for the Mustangs was Brian Bennett who tallied 12 points off the bench, clearing a team-best nine rebounds along the way. Perhaps more than anything else last night, Cal Poly was able to survive due to the fact that it turned the ball over just six times.
Eversley and Nwaba have been leading the offensive charge all season long for the Mustangs, putting up 13.4 and 11.7 ppg, respectively, for a program that is posting a mere 63.3 ppg, but also allowing just 63.6 ppg in order to keep things interesting.
Stephan Hicks knocked down all 13 of his free-throw attempts on Friday, not to mention shooting a solid 7-of-15 from the floor, as he finished with a game- high 27 points in the win over Long Beach State. Josh Greene had another strong outing with his 21 points, to go along with five assists and four rebounds, while Tre Hale-Edmerson and Stephen Maxwell each tallied 11 points, the latter adding 10 rebounds for a squad that won the battle of the boards, 37-30, and also outscored the 49ers at the charity stripe, 28-15.
While Greene has been a huge spark for the Matadors in the tournament, his 15.6 ppg on the season overall trails both Maxwell and Hicks who are producing 17.7 and 17.1 ppg, respectively. The program is putting up 77.2 ppg, but at the same time permitting 78.0 ppg which doesn't leave much room for error.