Mustang Daily Staff Report
Through 10 minutes, it looked like the magic would continue for Molly Schlemer and the Cal Poly women’s basketball team.
But during the next 30 minutes, Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas and the No. 3-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions turned on the switch to run away with an 85-55 victory over No. 14 Cal Poly in the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament on Sunday.
It ends what has been a storied season for head coach Faith Mimnaugh and the Mustangs. Just a week ago, she and her team nabbed a 63-49 victory over Pacific in the Big West Conference Tournament championship game, giving her her first NCAA tournament berth in 16 years of coaching in San Luis Obispo.
Beyond that feat, Schlemer earned tournament MVP honors and was named Big West Player of the year, averaging 13 points and 7.2 rebounds per game — leading the team in both categories — a year after starting just one game for the Mustangs in 2011-12.
She continued that momentum in the beginning of the Mustangs matchup against Penn State. She was perfect, going 4 for 4 from the field and scoring all 10 points for the Mustangs to make it 10-8 with 12:32 left in the first half. They kept that going, jumping out to a 15-12 lead after another layup from Schlemer minutes later.
But without the help of Kayla Griffin, who was sidelined for the remainder of the year after injuring her knee in Cal Poly’s title-clinching win over the Tigers, Penn State used Lucas to edge the Mustangs out of the first round. After a Cal Poly turnover and a missed jumper from Schlemer, Penn State made it 22-17 with a layup from Ariel Edwards. Lucas then hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at halftime to make it 38-28 at the break.
The Nittany Lions never looked back, shooting 47 percent from the field against the Mustangs.
Lucas, an All-American candidate, led Penn State with 19 points, Alex Bentley scored 18 and Mia Nickson scored 13. Nikki Greene was the only other Penn State scorer to reach double figures, as she put up 11.
For Cal Poly, Schlemer scored a game-high 24 points, while Jonae Ervin scored 10. Caroline Reeves was the Mustangs’ next closest scorer with seven, while Kristen Ale scored six.
The loss marks the end of the careers for five seniors: Nikol Allison, Ashley Cascio, Brittany Woodard, Caroline Reeves and Griffin.