ST. LOUIS (KTVI) It turns out support from The Wizard and a Cardinals nemesis wasn’t enough to keep the clock from striking midnight for Cinderella. The Cal-Poly Mustangs, fresh off a whirlwind that only saw them arrive in St. Louis early Thursday morning after winning a first round matchup to qualify as the 16th seed, fell Friday night to Midwest top seed Wichita State 64-37 at Scottrade Center.
The Mustangs connected with Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, a 1977 Cal-Poly graduate, on Twitter and Smith met the team shortly before tipoff Friday. The team also had Tweets of support from another graduate who went on to baseball fame, former Houston and now Baltimore pitcher Bud Norris.
The first half was rarely pretty. Cal Poly was 4-28 from the field, including 2-13 from 3 point range. Wichita State shot 44 percent from the field but had five turnovers and outrebounded the Mustangs 23-17. All in all it was enough to give the Shockers a 19 point lead which grew to as many as 30 in the second half.
Senior Forward Cleanthony Early paced Wichita State with 23 points. Senior Forward Chadrack Lufile added 8 points and five rebounds. Sophomore Guard Ron Baker added 7 points and 9 rebounds. Malik Love topped the scoring for the Mustangs with 9 points.
After playing five games in eight days, Cal-Poly was understandably drained. “We went into the game shooting a little earlier in the clock, doing some things we weren’t traditionally doing, because we were playing to win,” said head coach Joe Callero. ” I thought if we just milk the clock and were hesitant and didn’t play to win, that we would have been playing afraid,” he said. After going into the game thinking that it might be better for his team to not have time to think about playing a #1 seed, he conceded afterward, “You’ve got to be a well‑rested, a well‑prepared team to have a chance against them. We were not a well‑rested or well‑prepared team tonight.”
“I thought it was really important to play well because having been off 12 days you anticipate there being a little bit of rust,” said Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall, who last saw his team play when it cut down the nets at Scottrade at the conclusion of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
“Our practices have been so sharp and so good that I’ve really, really cut them down. I’ve taken Coach Knight’s advice and gone another step. We’re practicing about an hour at the max now because they are playing so hard,” he said. “It’s good to play well now and have an opportunity to come back on Sunday to hopefully play even better.”
The Shockers will tip off Sunday afternoon against No. 8 Kentucky following the Kansas-Stanford early game, which will start at 11:15 CST.