January was a tale of two streaks for the Cal Poly women’s basketball team. It was the best of times – a 4-0 start to Big West Conference play, their best conference start in 28 years. And it was the worst of times – a three-game losing skid including a loss to rival UC Santa Barbara and a one-point overtime defeat at Pacific.
But the Mustangs were able to end the month on a good note by defeating UC Davis 62-61 Saturday, thanks to senior guard Sparkle Anderson’s put-back in the lane with 1.3 seconds left.
In arguably her best game of the season, Anderson led Cal Poly (8-12, 5-2 Big West) with team highs of 18 points and eight assists.
Trailing 59-57 with 1:14 left, Anderson made a free throw to cut the lead to one. The ensuing Aggie possession resulted in a pair of their own free throws, extending the lead to 61-58 with 27 seconds left.
Refusing to go quietly, Anderson drove through the lane to score on a lay-up. UC Davis was unable to inbound the ball in five seconds, committing a turnover that led to the last-second heroics.
The Mustangs missed three game-winning attempts in the closing seconds before Anderson corralled the final rebound to put in the game-winning basket. The victory was Cal Poly’s first at UC Davis (10-9, 4-3 Big West) since 1988.
The game was tight throughout, with nine ties and seven lead changes. The largest lead was at halftime, when Cal Poly finished on a 5-0 run to head to the locker room ahead 35-27.
The winning effort revolved around two key team statistics. Cal Poly outscored the Aggies in fast-break points 10-0, and the Mustangs’ bench outperformed its counterpart 30-7.
Leading the Mustangs reserves in scoring was freshman forward Kristina Santiago, who had 11 points in only 11 minutes of action.
Junior forward Megan Harrison reached double figures for the 21st time in 25 contests, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds.
She is only 78 points shy of becoming the 12th player in program history to reach 800 points in a career. The last player to do so was Anderson, who is just 128 points shy of breaking 1,000 points for her career.
The victory broke a tie between the two programs and moved Cal Poly into sole possession of third place in the Big West.
Cal Poly returns home this weekend for its only home contest until Feb. 21. The Mustangs hope to continue their rise in the standings when they host second-place UC Riverside at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The match-up will feature the conference’s top scoring offense and defense. Cal Poly leads the Big West in the former category, scoring an average of 72.7 points per game, while the Highlanders allow only 57 points per outing.
The Mustangs will also be looking to make history, as Cal Poly has never started a conference schedule 6-2.