ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) –– Freshman guard Ridge Shipley hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds left and seventh-seeded Cal Poly completed its improbable march to the school’s first Big West Tournament championship, beating Cal State Northridge 61-59 Saturday night and putting coach Joe Callero’s Mustangs into the NCAA tourney for the first time in school history.
Cal Poly (13-19) became the lowest seed to win the title in the tournament’s 39-year history. San Jose State was seeded sixth when the Aztecs prevailed 76-75 in overtime against fourth seed Utah State in 1996. Shipley scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half and Chris Eversley had a team-high 18 and Dave Nwaba added 17.
Cal Poly also was the lowest-seeded team in the history of the tournament to eliminate both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, and the lowest-seeded team to play for the Big West crown since 1994, when 10th-seeded UC Irvine lost to No. 1 New Mexico State.
Cal Poly is the lowest seed to win a conference tournament game so far. The previous low was fifth-seeded Milwaukee in the Horizon League, beating top seed Green Bay in overtime a week earlier during their semifinals.
This also was the first time that none of the top four seeds played in the Big West title game, and only the second time in the last 14 years that one of the top three seeds didn’t win it.
Eversley was named tournament MVP, the first player from his school to receive that honor. This was the third time each school made it to the championship game. The Mustangs lost to Utah State in 2003 and Long Beach State in 2007. The Matadors lost to Pacific in 2004, then turned the tables on the Tigers in 2009 for coach Bobby Braswell.
Stephen Maxwell scored 18 points for Northridge (17-18), which lost all three meetings with Cal Poly. The Matadors, playing their first season under head coach Reggie Theus, began the tournament with an 87-84 overtime victory over fourth seed Hawaii, then hung beat third-seeded Long Beach State 82-77.
The Mustangs came to Honda Center having lost nine of their previous 11 games before routing second seed UC Santa Barbara 69-38 on Thursday afternoon — the fewest points allowed in this tournament since Utah State beat Pacific 50-38 in the 2001 title game.
They followed that with Friday night’s 61-58 decision over top-seeded UC Irvine, the regular-season conference champs and the only school to get to the semifinals with a winning record. It was the first time a No. 7 ever beat a No.1 in this event.
Cal Poly beat Northridge for the fifth straight time in the 94th meeting between the schools and the first at a neutral site.
Cal Poly scored the first six points of the second half to turn a four-point deficit into a 31-29 lead, the Mustangs’ first of the game. The lead changed hands three more times before Shipley hit a baseline jumper and a 3-pointer 45 seconds apart to put the Mustangs back in front 50-49 with 5:29 to play.
Northridge and Cal Poly also went head-to-head in the women’s championship game several hours earlier, with Northridge winning 73-58 to earn the second NCAA tournament berth in its 23-year history as a Division I program. The other was as a member of the Big Sky Conference in 1999.