The Cal Poly Mustangs' improbable run through the Big West Tournament reached unimaginable heights on Saturday, when they upset the Cal State Northridge Matadors, 61-59, to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time in school history despite a 13-19 record.
Neither team was expected to make it this far, but with UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State all stumbling in the tournament, the No. 5 and 6 seeds are playing for the Big West's automatic bid. In that context, the first half went about as expected -- Cal Poly shot 34.3 percent from the field and CS Northridge made just 31.3 percent of their field goals. The Matadors went into halftime leading, 29-25, with little of note happening on either side.
Things got interesting in the second half when the 12-19 Mustangs took a slim lead. CS Northridge used an 8-2 run to get the lead back, but Ridge Shipley drained a three-pointer to put Cal Poly ahead again. The final minutes were an intense back-and-forth, with the Matadors gaining a slim two-point lead with just over two minutes left. Down by two, the Mustangs got the ball with 33 seconds to go and Shipley jacked up another clutch three to give them a one-point lead. CS Northridge had a chance to win it with their last possession, but an offensive foul cost them the ball with four seconds left. Cal Poly made their necessary free throws to pull off the incredible upset.
With a losing record, Cal Poly is almost certainly headed to Dayton for the First Four, but the players and fans are unlikely to forget this night for a long time.