It is no coincidence that when the Cal Poly women’s basketball team is winning, its standout tandem of forwards performs well.
So well, in fact, that senior Jessica Eggleston and sophomore Megan Harrison combined for 78 points, 28 rebounds, 12 assists and six steals over their past two games last week in leading the Mustangs to consecutive victories for the first time since November 2006.
“They complement each other really nicely,” Cal Poly assistant coach Kerri Nakamoto said of Eggleston and Harrison. “Inside-out, one plays perimeter, one plays inside. They can swap equally well from there. They look for each other now. After a year of playing together, they’ve really developed their game together.”
Nakamoto spoke Monday at a weekly athletics department press conference in the absence of head coach Faith Mimnaugh, who was busy recruiting.
Eggleston, Harrison and the rest of the Mustangs (7-12, 3-4 Big West Conference) will be looking for their third straight win when rival UC Davis (9-12) visits Mott Gym for a nonconference game at 7 p.m. today. UC Davis is independent of a conference because it is still transitioning from the Division II ranks, but it will officially join the Big West next season.
Cal Poly will be trying to avenge a 78-64 loss at UC Davis on Jan. 11 in which the Mustangs committed 25 turnovers and shot 37.1 percent from the field.
“Last time we played Davis, we played them zone because they have a really good motion set where they run a lot of screens and cuts,” Nakamoto said. “We thought it’d be difficult to match up with them man-to-man.”
One player difficult to match up with man-to-man has been Eggleston, who was named Big West Player of the Week on Monday for the second time in her career. She leads Cal Poly in points per game (13.8), rebounds per game (7.8), assists (54) and is tied for the team lead in steals (40).
Eggleston, who is ninth all-time in points scored at Cal Poly with 927, is 73 shy of becoming the seventh player since the program’s inception in the 1974-75 season to reach 1,000 points in a career.
“Athletically, there’s not a player in the league that can match up with (Eggleston),” Nakamoto said. “She’s worked on her outside shot, which is making her even more of a dangerous weapon.”
That production has been key for an injury-plagued team that is playing without four-year starting point guard Sparkle Anderson, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury Nov. 28. Other players in the rotation who have missed significant time this season include starting shooting guard Toni Newman (leg stress fracture), backup point guard Ashlee Stewart (ankle sprain) and combo guard Kyla Howell (ineligible).
Newman and Stewart have since returned and started in the backcourt Saturday in Cal Poly’s 78-72 Big West win over visiting Cal State Northridge, a game in which they combined for 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting, 15 rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“With all our injuries and stuff, Jess has really been forced to step up,” Nakamoto said. “She’s shouldered a lot of the weight the whole season. We’ve got Toni back now, so there’s not as much pressure on her.”
There is not as much pressure on the upperclassmen as there was earlier in the season because of the improved performances of Cal Poly’s six freshmen, including power forward Bria Fields (9.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
“Our freshmen are starting to get comfortable in game experience,” Nakamoto said. “That’s really making a huge difference for us. The seniors all feel more comfortable with the freshmen, leaving the game for them.”
Tonight marks the last game in Cal Poly’s four-game home stand. The Mustangs play four of their final six on the road before the Big West tourney, which runs from March 7 to 10 in Anaheim.
As for the UC Davis game, there are more reasons than meet the eye in terms of it being a rivalry.
“We compete with them for recruits, so it’s big to be able to say we beat them, or at least split with them, in this case,” Nakamoto said.