Mustang News Staff Report
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Senior guard Ariana Elegado scored 23 points and senior forward Taryn Garza hauled in 12 rebounds, but the Cal Poly women’s basketball team (9-9, 4-2 Big West Conference) could not finish off a furious second-half rally Saturday night, falling 82-78 in a shootout against UC Riverside (12-8, 3-3) in SRC Arena.
A hot-shooting first sequence saw the Mustangs go up 7-0 to begin the game. The Highlanders, who answered back with an 18-4 run of their own and ended up going 17 for 34 overall and 6 for 11 from 3-point range in the half, finished shooting 43.5 percent on the night.
Cal Poly would finish an even 40 percent on 28-for-70 shooting.
The Mustangs were not to be demoralized following one of the highest-percentage performances they’ve given up in a half this season.
Though the Highlanders came out of halftime still with the hot hand — extending their lead to 20 points just four minutes in — a 3-pointer from junior guard Lisa Marie Sanchez followed back-to-back pairs of free throws from junior and senior guards Beth Balbierz and Kristen Ale began a second-half rally.
Elegado helped the cause, scoring five straight points of her own before freshman guard Dynn Leaupepe and sophomore forward Rachel Koehler made it 58-52. The 16-2 run gave life to the Mustangs with nine minutes remaining in the game.
The game came down to the final minutes, with a Balbierz 3-pointer with just over a minute left cutting the Highlanders’ lead down to 74-70. A minute later, the Mustangs were within three after another clutch Balbierz 3-ball put the Highlanders and Brittany Crain, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer, at risk of giving up their commanding 20-point lead.
Crain, however, sank a free throw in the final seconds to give the Highlanders a close Big West victory.
Ale finished with 13 points to follow up her season-high 20, Thursday at Cal State Fullerton. Balbierz, who came off the bench Saturday, finished with 12. The Mustangs bench outscored the Highlanders’ 31-17.
Individually, the offensive-minded night brought two Mustangs up to historic levels. Elegado’s eight assists — all of which came in the first half — eclipsed the 400 mark for her career. The 5-foot-6 guard from San Diego also moved past Christine Rodness with her 1,338th point, good for No. 4 on Cal Poly’s all-time scoring list.
Garza’s 12 rebounds were one off her career high and moved her beyond the 350 mark on her career.
The Mustangs will hope to build off of Saturday night’s many bright spots when they return home to face UC Davis on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. and UC Irvine on Jan. 31 at 4 p.m. in Mott Athletics Center.