Cal Poly women's basketball was unable to defeat Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night. | Ian Billings/Mustang News

Jesse Summers

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After losing five straight games, Cal State Fullerton (10-14, 4-7 Big West Conference) sailed to a 74-60 victory over the Cal Poly women’s basketball team (12-12, 7-5) on Thursday night thanks to huge contributions from senior guard Chante Miles.

Miles — Fullerton’s electric 5’3″ point guard — was on fire from all over the floor in the first half, shooting 6-for-8 from 3-point range and collecting 22 of her team’s 33 points. She would finish the game with a season-high 36 points.

“We knew coming into the game that Miles was a great player,” Cal Poly senior guard Ariana Elegado said. “We just should’ve tightened up our defense on her earlier on, after her first couple 3-pointers.”

Miles’ high level of play fueled an active and overwhelming defensive effort by the Titans early in the first half, preventing the Mustangs from getting any good looks at the basket. Still, the Mustangs managed to match the Titans’ 33 points at the end of the first half.

“It was all Miles in the first half, but we at least kept up our energy in the first half, which helped us stay in the game,” senior forward Taryn Garza said.

Garza helped keep the game close in the first half with her activity in the post. She has been the most reliable offensive threat for Cal Poly as of late, and she has also been the team leader in rebounding. Garza finished the half with 11 points.

The Mustangs showed signs of hope in the opening minutes of the second half. Keeping the ball out of Miles’ hands was key, but that was when other Titans began to step up. Seniors Kathleen Iwuoha and Tailer Butler contributed 11 and 14 points, respectively, most of which were tallied midway through the second frame. Miles, however, could only be contained for so long and began to find other ways to score, going 10-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half.

It was not the Titans’ quality of play that caused the Mustangs to slip away in the second half, though. Cal Poly suffered offensively, characterized by sloppy play and low energy.

“I just felt like we kind of lost our way,” head coach Faith Minmaugh said. “The team play that I anticipated us having this game was simply not there. Miles was obviously a huge part for them, but I thought we came out unaware.”

Elegado, Cal Poly’s leading scorer, has struggled lately to produce the numbers she is so used to.

“[She’s] been struggling the last couple of weeks,” Minmaugh added. “It’s left us a little bit dry offensively. So we have to work it out, find more ways to get her involved. The desire is there, but the production is lacking.”

Elegado’s shooting slump, paired with the exhaustion suffered by senior guard Kristen Ale due to her defensive efforts to shut down Miles, left the Mustangs lost offensively and not sure who to turn to when they needed a basket.

This loss puts the Mustangs back in fourth place, but that does not change anything, according to both Minmaugh and Elegado.

“I think this league is incredibly competitive this season. I believe any team can beat us and we can beat any team,” Minmaugh said.

Cal Poly will host UC Riverside this Saturday at Mott Athletics Center in its second-to-last home game of the season. The last time these two teams faced, the Highlanders were victorious by a margin of 82-76. The Mustangs will look to return the favor in front of their home crowd at 4 p.m. this weekend and build momentum heading into the Big West Tournament next month.

“Every game is going to be a good game,” Elegado said. “In the Big West, every team could win on any given night. So from here on, we just have to prepare for the next team and just continue to fight.”

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