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Big loss not so happy for 16-seed Cal Poly

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, March 21, 2014, at 10:02 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 22, 2014, at 11:24 p.m.


ST. LOUIS – Presumably San Luis Obispo will remain one of the happiest towns in America.

Surely the central California coastal town won’t change its message just because its 16th-seeded Cal Poly was squashed 64-37 Friday night by unbeaten and No. 1-seed Wichita State.

After all, this was Cal Poly’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since it went Division I nearly 20 years ago.

The Mustangs arrived smiling after working through a play-in game — and in spite of others poking fun at them for having the tournament’s only losing record.

It was senior Kyle Odister who reminded everyone early in the week that SLO – that’s what the locals call it – was “one of the happiest cities in America.”

“I think they’ll still love us,” Odister said of the folks back home. “We did something no other Cal Poly team has done.

“There’s a starting place for everything, and we started something. Hopefully, five years from now we see Cal Poly in the Sweet 16 or beyond. We can say we help start it.”

With so much to do in SLO – hiking, beaches, farmers markets, wine tasting and just plain relaxing – writer and explorer Dan Buettner was very clear in his book “Thrive” that the town was the happiest city in the land.

Not one of the happiest.

So now the Mustangs (14-20) can return to their happy town and reflect on what happened this season and in Friday’s game.

Cal Poly would’ve had a hard time hitting the Pacific Ocean with the way they shot. Just 4 of 28 in the first half and 20.7 percent for the game.

Those kind of numbers put a dent in the Mustangs’ smiles.

“We got off to a bad start,” said senior Jamal Johnson, whose father grew up in Wichita and was a Shocker fan. “It’s hard to get out of a slump when you’re down so fast.

“But give credit to their defense. They are so long and pressure outside. They’re always locked in on defense.”

Sophomore guard Reese Morgan said, “You can’t win all your games and not be good. They’re very good.”

Good enough to match up with the likes of Arizona, Stanford and Oregon – tournament teams from the Pac-12.

“Absolutely,” said forward Chris Eversley, Cal Poly’s leading scorer who had six points on 2-of-14 shooting. “I can see why they’re unbeaten. They’re a very physical team.”

Freshman Ridge Shipley figures he’ll benefit in the years ahead from what Cal Poly accomplished this year.

“We had a lot of people lose faith in us – not in the community, though,” he said. “We made history. What we did this year will bring more Cal Poly fans in.”

It brought Ozzie Smith, the former Hall of Fame shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals and still a local resident, into Cal Poly’s locker room before the game.

One Cal Poly’s most famous alums, he told the team, “You’ve already won by just being here.”

Now that’s something that should make a town happy.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rickplumlee.

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