After starting the season 3-0 at home, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team split the final two games of their four-game homestand with a loss to the Saint Mary’s Gaels Thursday night and a win against the Pepperdine Waves Saturday evening. Despite a loss on Thursday, the Mustangs were able to get back in the win column on Friday against the winless Waves in their second-to-last home game of 2016.
Cal Poly Mustangs vs. Saint Mary’s Gaels, Dec. 1
Early in the first quarter, the Mustangs jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but the Gaels finished the quarter on a 22-6 run. The Gaels’ scoring was largely spurred by the plethora of fouls the Mustangs committed in the quarter as Saint Mary’s was able to convert on all eight of their free throw attempts. As a result, multiple Mustangs ended up in foul trouble early and had to come out of the game.
“It was really difficult to get past that, it certainly took both [junior guard] Lynn Leaupepe and [senior forward] Amanda Lovely putting their butts on the bench so I think that hurt a little bit with our flow,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said.
As the first half continued, the Mustangs found a spark off the bench from junior forward Emily Anderson who drained three shots from beyond the arc in the first half on her way to a career-high 12 points.
“I was happy, obviously, with the performance of Emily Anderson in a substitution role,” Mimnaugh said. “I thought she came in and was a real spark for us.”
As soon as Anderson entered the game, she began launching jumpers when she had open looks.
“My role on this team is basically to shoot,” Anderson said. “I know that when she puts me in the game that’s what I’m supposed to do, so I just kind of shot with high confidence and they fell tonight.”
Anderson, the only Mustang to connect on a three in the first half, contributed enough off the bench to keep the Mustangs within six at the half despite the team shooting a woeful 33 percent from the field. At the break, the Mustangs also trailed the Gaels in rebounds 27 to 17 and points in the paint 18 to 8.
“We recognized that more in the second half we needed to take the ball to the rim and draw more fouls,” Anderson said. “We had zero free throw attempts in the first half, so we definitely needed to change that.”
Scoring and rebounding inside continued to be tough for the Mustangs in the second half, as the Gaels’ size advantage became more evident once the Mustangs’ forwards started to get tired.
“They’re just huge,” Mimnaugh said. “You know, every position they’re pretty much six foot and taller. We had to battle on the boards. I’ve seen it be a lot worse so we did an okay job, but it’s obviously an area that we are still trying to focus our attention to improve upon.”
After Saint Mary’s saw its lead swell to 17 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Mustangs’ defense prevented the Gaels from scoring another field goal in the game. With 35 seconds remaining in the game, the Mustangs shrunk the Gaels’ lead to just five points in large part to junior guard Dynn Leaupepe who scored a game-high 24 points with 12 points coming in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately the early lead was too much for the Mustangs to overcome. Once the Mustangs started intentionally fouling, the Gaels were able to hit their free throws and defeat the Mustangs 79-71.
Cal Poly Mustangs vs. Pepperdine Waves, Dec. 3
Two days after the loss to Saint Mary’s, the Mustangs looked to get back on track against Pepperdine. The Waves came out firing from deep, hitting three shots from beyond the arc in the first six minutes of the game to jump out to an early seven-point lead. The Mustangs’ defense kept the pressure on and turned defense into offense, scoring eight points off of six forced turnovers in the first quarter.
With nine minutes left to play in the first half, Dynn scored two of her game-high 22 points on a go-ahead basket for the Mustangs and Cal Poly never trailed from then on. Junior forward Mary Kate Evans helped extend the Mustangs’ lead just before halftime as she drilled two threes and two free throws coming off the bench in the last three minutes of the quarter.
At the half, the Mustangs lead 35-25, mainly due to their ability to score off of turnovers. In addition to turning 13 Waves’ turnovers into 18 points, the Mustangs only turned the ball over five times and surrendered just four points off of those turnovers. The Mustangs also had a slight advantage on the boards in part due to senior forward Hannah Gilbert’s three offensive rebounds in the first half.
“When our nights kind of flow on the defense that we’re in, it kind of opens different opportunities for us,” Gilbert said. “I think we took advantage of that completely which led to more success for us.”
As the second half began, the Mustangs’ pressure defense and rebounds continued to turn into points on the other end of the floor. Lynn seemed to be involved in every big defensive play and loose ball, finishing the game with a career-high 13 rebounds.
“If I know my shots aren’t falling, I usually try to pick it up on the other ends, whether it’s rebounding or steals or even just small hustle plays,” Lynn said. “I just try to do what’s best for the team, if it’s not working for me I just go back and help out the team.”
The Mustangs maintained their early lead throughout most of the game, but the Waves came roaring back to come within four of the Mustangs with four minutes left to play. That is as close as they would come to the Mustangs’ lead, however as the Mustangs continued to play solid defense down the stretch. Gilbert scored four of her eight points in the final three minutes of play and secured the victory for the Mustangs.
Next week, the Mustangs will travel to Phoenix, Arizona to face Grand Canyon University Dec. 10 before returning to Mott Gym to take on University of San Francisco Dec. 17.