Ian Billings/Mustang News

Amaka Ofodu led the Cal Poly women’s basketball team with a career-high 17 points in a win over Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night.

Evan Morter

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The Cal Poly women’s basketball team, led by a career-high 17 points from senior guard Amaka Ofodu, defeated Cal State Fullerton on Thursday 69-65.  Cal Poly now moves to 4-1 in conference play to remain at the top of the Big West Conference standings.

Ofodu prides herself on her defensive ability, averaging just 2.9 points a game heading into Thursday’s game. But against Cal State Fullerton, she capitalized on her many opportunities to contribute on the other end of the floor.

“It feels really good,” she said. “My team saw how I was open, and they felt confident in giving me the ball and my ability to score. They were doubling Molly (Schlemer) and trying to take Ariana (Elegado) out of everything we were trying to do offensively, so we just went with a different game plan.”

Ofodu, a former walk-on to the women’s basketball team, earned a full-ride scholarship just a year ago and has started in 15 games this season.

“I feel like I’m slowly coming into my own,” Ofodu said. “It’s my senior year, so it’s funny to say that I’m slowly coming, but I’ve always taken pride in my defense, and it feels good to say that I can play offense too.”

Ofodu was not the only unlikely scoring source from Thursday night’s game, as junior forward Taryn Garza added 12 points along with eight rebounds to lead the Mustangs to victory.

Garza has started in nine of Cal Poly’s 18 games this year, but she has recently found her niche in the starting lineup as one of the team’s most dependable rebounders, head coach Faith Mimnaugh said.

“She was killing on the boards,” Mimnaugh said. “Garza’s a beast on the boards. She’s a beast in a post up.”

The emergence of Ofodu and Garza has given the Mustangs a more potent attack going forward, senior guard Jonae Ervin said.

“It’s great,” she said. “If other people aren’t on their game, or if somebody’s game is taken away like Ariana, then it’s good for Amaka and them to step up,” she said.

Ervin produced an outstanding performance, as well, with a balanced statline of 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Ervin has been a source of stability for the Mustangs throughout the season. Thursday night’s performance, with no turnovers, impressed Mimnaugh.

“She’s does an amazing job of taking care of the basketball,” Mimnaugh said. “Her ability to find players on the court is very strong. She’s the shortest kid on the floor, but somehow ends up getting eight rebounds a game. So we’re lucky to have her, and she means so much to our team.”

The Mustangs got off to a quick 21-5 run to begin the game with a balanced attack from all five starters.

However, Cal State Fullerton quickly answered with five field goals from 3-point range while the Mustangs struggled offensively and lacked defensive bite, Ervin said.

“I think we just got too comfortable with our lead and weren’t realizing what was working for us,” she said.

Cal Poly led 32-30 at the half while leading scorer Ofodu shot .500 from the field in the first period.

However, the Titans kept the deficit to a minimum and found their first lead of the game with just nine minutes remaining in a 55-54 scoreline.

The Mustangs quickly regained the lead after allowing just six points in the final nine minutes of the game and never lost their advantage the rest of the game.

Cal Poly will now move its focus to Saturday night’s game, when they host UC Riverside (0-5 Big West) with the hopes of remaining at the top of the Big West standings.

“Riverside is another super athletic team, a little more size than Fullerton,” Mimnaugh said. “We’re going to have to play some great defense, and rebounding wins games, so we have to stay on that mission of rebounding the ball.”

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