Ian Billings/Mustang News

Junior guard Ariana Elegado scored a team-high 13 points in a 83-57 loss to Cal State Northridge on Thursday.

Evan Morter

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The matchup between the top two teams in the Big West Conference was unexpectedly lopsided on Thursday, as Cal State Northridge defeated Cal Poly 83-57 in the Mott Athletics Center (MAC).

The blowout loss at home marked the Mustangs’ first defeat in the MAC this season, ending Cal Poly’s program-tying nine consecutive home wins to begin a season. It also marked Cal Poly’s worst defeat since its loss to Oregon in non-conference play earlier this year.

“It was ugly,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “I think offensively we really struggled. We had no flow about us. We were impatient. I apologize for all the people that came out to watch us.”

Cal State Northridge put the pressure on Cal Poly as soon as the whistle blew. The Matadors forced Cal Poly into a fast-paced, physical style of play that favored the strength of their three guards.

Cal State Northridge’s trio of backcourt threats accounted for 61 of the Matadors’ 83 total points.

Point guard Cinnamon Lister led the way with 25 total points while accumulating four steals for a representation of her pesky defensive play. Ashlee Guay produced a balanced stat line of 20 points, six boards, and five assists while the final piece of the trifecta, Janae Sharpe, produced 16 points.

“It was hard to come up with any type of system that we could use to dismantle what they were doing offensively,” Mimnaugh said. “Northridge does have our number.”

Northridge must be commended for Thursday night’s performance, but the Mustangs’ poor showing can’t be ignored, Mimnaugh said.

“They shot the ball well,” she said. “But we got ourselves in too big of a hole in the first half. We’re a better team than we showed.”

Senior center Molly Schlemer scored just nine points — nine under her average. Junior guard Ariana Elegado was thwarted as she shot just 30 percent (6-20) from the field and scored 13 points.

The third piece of the Mustangs’ top three statistical performers, senior Jonae Ervin, was coming a knee injury which kept her out of the Mustangs’ previous game and limited her minutes in Thursday’s matchup. Ervin played just 10 minutes and was held scoreless.

Although the regular producers struggled to replicate their season averages, the supporting cast shined in their granted opportunity.

Freshman forward Hannah Gilbert was called into action with 15 minutes remaining in regulation as the deficit continued to grow in the second half.

“Any moment that I have in the game counts,” she said. “I just go in and try to do as much as I can for my team. You just always have to be prepared.”

Gilbert entered the game as the Mustangs trailed by 25 points. With nine points and seven boards, she helped lead Cal Poly cut the deficit to as low as 14, but it wasn’t enough.

“We just wanted to win so bad,” she said. “Sometimes when you want something so bad it just shakes you up a little bit.”

Gilbert’s performance was just about the only source of joy for the Mustangs as each of her baskets led to a celebratory cheer from the Cal Poly bench. But one other member of the supporting cast, Taryn Garza, continued Gilbert’s performance with nine boards. This marked her seventh game with more than seven rebounds in a contest. She averages just over six per game this year.

“I love rebounding,” Garza said.

The Mustangs were up two games on Cal State Northridge heading into Thursday’s matchup, but now that gap has closed, and with the performance by the Matadors, the pressure has been placed on Cal Poly to maintain its spot at the top of the standings.

Thursday night’s matchup marked a potential Big West Tournament contest as the season winds down, and with six games remaining, Cal Poly will look to prepare themselves for a potential rematch against their toughest conference opponent.

“They’re a good team,” Garza said. “We’re going to work on it as a team and on things we need to do to stop them. We’re just going to work hard everyday.”

The Mustangs will look to bounce back on Saturday when they host Long Beach State, a team Cal Poly defeated in overtime in its last matchup. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. in the MAC.

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