During warmups before Texas Southern took on Cal Poly in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament, Aaric Murray kept lining up from the 3-point line and taking shots. It didn't seem right to see the dominant post player in the game working on his long range shot.
Little did anyone know -- maybe other than Murray -- how badly the Tigers would need it.
Even though Murray managed to hit three 3-pointers and score 38 points, Cal Poly went away the winner in Dayton, 81-69.
Texas Southern fell because of its biggest issues on the ball. They looked lost on defense, never quite looking comfortable spacing themselves. They constantly ran at the ball, to their detriment as whatever Mustangs player it was would pass out of trouble to a wide open man.
As a result, Cal Poly shot nearly 57 percent from the floor, the best that the Mustangs had shot all season against a Division 1 team. To beat something like this, you have to be perfect on offense.
Only Texas Southern wasn't that either. Everything had to go through Murray in order to be almost automatic inside. He ran into a couple of arms from Dave Nwaba, who blocked the big man three times, but otherwise, he had his way into the basket with ease, or went to the line.
Without Murray, the Tigers were 1-for-8 from 3-point range. Without Murray, they went 10-for-27 from the field. You aren't going to win many games that way. You definitely won't when you can't play defense.
And this was after the game started with Murray just banging his way into the basket three times in a row. If you could have imagine the team feeding him all game, you would have though that things would go Texas Southern's way.
But no, you have issues like this, where a man would have a wide open path to the basket without any Tiger having a shot at him. Of course, on this play, the Mustangs' player beat himself but that seemed the only way they were stopped from scoring all night.
This is why they're playing for the No. 16-seed. https://t.co/el8H6iL2O5— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir) March 19, 2014
Chris Eversley led the way with 19 points and Nwaba added 17 as Texas Southern allowed the ball inside constantly. If Murray had to sit down to catch his breath (and he played 32 minutes, it wasn't like this took long), the Mustangs were able to run roughshod over the remainder of the Tiger defense.
It also didn't help that Cal Poly drew 23 fouls and went 17-for-22 from the free throw line. They committed just 10 turnovers in the game, only faltering when Texas Southern tried briefly to trap them.
But it wasn't sustainable as when the Mustangs broke through, there was nothing left to stop an easy basket.
The Mustangs face the tough task of taking on Wichita State and attempting to be not only the first 16 seed to win, but the first team to figure out the Shockers this season. They will tip off in Saint Louis on Friday, at 7:10 p.m. Eastern.