If there is such a thing as a bittersweet 100th win, that’s the way to describe Cal Poly women’s basketball head coach Faith Mimnaugh’s century-mark victory over Pacific last Thursday.
One-hundred wins is an impressive landmark for any coach, but it certainly didn’t come the way Mimnaugh might have hoped heading into the 2006-07 season.
In a perfect world, the Mustangs wouldn’t have lost four-year starting point guard Sparkle Anderson for the season with an ACL injury, key contributors Toni Newman, Ashlee Stewart and Megan Harrison would all be 100 percent healthy and Kyla Howell would be eligible and in the starting lineup.
Unfortunately for Mimnaugh and the Mustangs, this season has been anything but perfect. After starting the season 4-3, including a win over Pac-10 school Oregon State, the Mustangs went on a seven-game losing streak.
Still, Cal Poly has shown potential. Except for a 64-49 loss to Big West foe Cal State Fullerton, the games were all close. Three of the seven were decided by six points or fewer.
After sweeping its home series over the weekend, Cal Poly sits at a crossroads. The Mustangs are 7-12 overall and 3-4 in the Big West. Entering the season with a talented freshmen class, a returning All-Big West first-teamer in versatile senior forward Jessica Eggleston and seasoned veterans in Anderson and Newman, an above .500 record seemed an inevitability.
Obviously, injuries have contributed to Cal Poly’s woes, but a team field-goal percentage of .384 percent and an average of 22 turnovers per game have also played a significant role.
In all fairness, the Mustangs have been superb defensively. Despite turning the ball over 22 times a game themselves, the Mustangs force just as many.
The defense is fine.
Mimnaugh has clearly demonstrated her exceptional knowledge on that side of the ball.
However, the Mustangs lack a consistently potent offensive attack.
Cal Poly’s offense appears unorganized, inefficient and careless with the basketball.
The stats speak for themselves – 38.4 percent shooting, 20 and 43 percent – Cal Poly’s field-goal percentage, turnovers per game and winning percentage over the last five years.
Over the five-year sample, not one year did the team shoot about 40 percent – for the basketball illiterate, 40 would be a passing grade, but just barely. An above-average offense tends to shoot closer to 45 percent than 40 percent and anything above would be an exceptionally efficient output.
The biggest problem facing Mimnaugh’s Mustangs, however, is their engorged turnover total.
Cal Poly prides itself on a high-wired, full-court pressing defense and it’s done well to force an amazing 22 turnovers per game this season, but the significance of those turnovers is diminished if you give the ball back just as often. Too many times are errant entry passes thrown aimlessly to the low post.
Halfway through the Big West schedule, Mimnaugh’s Mustangs are at the breaking point. They could continue to turn the ball over at an astonishing rate and shoot poorly from the field and use the injury excuse at the end of the season or changes can be made.
The Mustangs are talented enough to make a run in the Big West Tournament and earn the conference’s automatic bid to March Madness. If they don’t, this could very well be Mimnaugh’s last season on the sidelines of Mott Gym. With a 101-164 record at Cal Poly, she is in the last year of her contract and the pressure is mounting for a breakout season – something that has been missing in her 10 years at Cal Poly.