The women’s basketball team split the final two games of the regular season, winning 73-57 over Cal State Fullerton Wednesday before losing 77-63 to UC Santa Barbara Saturday. These games wrapped up the regular season for the Mustangs before the Big West Tournament starts on Tuesday.
Against Cal State Fullerton
This game marked the end of an era for the Mustangs as senior forwards Hannah Gilbert and Amanda Lovely played their final games in Mott Athletics Center.
The Mustangs (11-17, 7-9 Big West) got off to an early 20-13 lead by the end of the first quarter in a game in which they never trailed. Cal Poly’s defense held the Titans (4-25, 1-15) to just 36 percent (4-for-11) shooting from the field in the opening quarter.
The Titans closed the gap slightly in the second quarter, but the Mustangs still maintained a 38-32 lead headed into halftime.
Junior guard Dynn Leaupepe scored all of her team-high eight points in the second period to spark the offense.
“We wanted to make sure our defense was our best defense that we’ve played all year,” she said after the game. “So we wanted to focus on locking in on our players.”
Though the Mustangs’ defense allowed the Titans to shoot 43.5 percent on the night, Cal Poly was effective on the other end in shooting 55.8 percent and holding a 36-26 advantage in points in the paint. The Mustangs outsc ored the Titans by 10 in the second half to secure the win.
But for Gilbert, this game signified the first step to life beyond the court. In her final home game, she tallied 10 points and one rebound.
“It’s surreal. It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but it’s really exciting,” she said. “I’m proud of the team, proud of how we’re playing.”
Against UC Santa Barbara
Despite junior guard Lynn Leaupepe’s 24 points and 10 rebounds, the Mustangs couldn’t overcome a nine-point deficit by halftime against the host Gauchos (14-15, 9-7).
UC Santa Barbara went on a 8-1 run to close the first half and run out a 37-28 lead. The Mustangs came out cold, shooting just 11 for 32 in the first half. Apart from Lynn’s 12 points, it was tough going for the Mustangs’ offense on a night when they only shot 38 percent from the field.
After halftime, the Gauchos went on a 9-2 run after Lovely’s jumper to start the third quarter. With two minutes left in the third quarter, UC Santa Barbara got out to a 17-point lead that proved too much for the Mustangs to overcome in the final quarter.
Despite sitting sixth in the Big West heading into this week’s conference tournament, the team remains optimistic about their chances.
“That’s what so crazy about our conference,” Gilbert said. “Anyone can beat anyone, the rankings really don’t matter.”
The Mustangs have seven conference wins this season, three of which came against the top two teams in the Big West. With the strong defensive effort in the win against Fullerton Wednesday night, Dynn said the team has the right mindset heading into the tournament.
“We needed this energy going into the tournament next week,” she said. “And now we have so much confidence going into the tournament.”
The Mustangs open the tournament Tuesday night against Hawaii (10-17, 6-9) at 8:30 p.m.