Ryan Chartrand

After watching a 15-point second-half lead all but disappear, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team came up with key stops down the stretch to eek out its seventh straight win, 64-58 over first-place UC Riverside on Thursday night in Mott Gym.

The Highlanders (17-10, 11-2 Big West Conference) scored 13 unanswered points in three-and-a-half minutes late in the second half, slashing Cal Poly’s lead to 55-54 with 3:31 to play. The Mustangs woke from their stupor just in time, however, securing big rebounds and getting to the foul line in the final minutes of the game to pull ahead 62-56 with one minute to play.

“One thing I told them was to have fun with it,” Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “We were still in the driver’s seat. We wanted to stay in attack mode and we did a super job of it. I said, ‘this is ours to get, so let’s go get it.’”

Cal Poly (12-12, 7-4) has won seven straight, its longest winning streak since the 1981-82 season.

Senior forward Jessica Eggleston came up huge down the stretch, scoring five points and grabbing three rebounds in the final 3:20.

“It was a moment where I knew I needed to get solid,” said Eggleston, who finished with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. “It was crucial to get defensive boards and offensive boards so we could get second opportunities.”

For her career, Eggleston has 996 points, four away from becoming only the seventh Cal Poly women’s basketball player to finish with 1,000 career points. She would be the first to accomplish that feat since 1996.

“If we continue to take care of business, she’s certainly someone you have to consider for (Big West) Player of the Year,” Mimnaugh said.

After playing the first half to a virtual stalemate, the Mustangs charged ahead early in the second half, using swarming defense as the catalyst for a 13-0 run to gain a 49-34 advantage. The Mustangs forced four turnovers during that stretch and were led by hot shooting from guard Lisa McBride and strong play inside from forward Megan Harrison.

Harrison finished with nine rebounds and led all scorers with 16 points. McBride and center Toni Newman each scored 10 points. Center Kemie Nkele led the Highlanders with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Mustangs’ defense proved to be a decisive factor in the game, limiting UC Riverside to 35.5-percent shooting from the field and 22 turnovers. Although themselves being limited to 41.4 percent shooting from the field, the Mustangs shot a blistering 60 percent on 3-pointers for the game.

The victory marked Cal Poly’s first against UC Riverside since 2005 and the first against a defending Big West champion since 2001.

Cal Poly hosts Cal State Fullerton at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *