In the first of a four-game home stand, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team fell 68-62 to Big West Conference rival UC Santa Barbara in Mott Gym on Saturday night.
The visiting Gauchos were a few steps ahead for most of the first half and the Mustangs only managed to break ahead once at 14-13. It was short-lived, however, as UCSB pushed forward and maintained a small lead into the half, 33-31.
Coming back into the game with a second-half vengeance, Cal Poly (5-12, 1-4 Big West) powered ahead into its biggest lead of the game at 56-44 with 12 minutes to go, led by junior shooting guard Toni Newman. She scored 11 of her 12 points in the second half.
After the 12-point lead, Cal Poly couldn’t quite hold on as its lead slowly diminished. Layups and free throws popped up everywhere for the Gauchos’ offense, getting them back in the game at 61-61 with about six minutes left.
Both teams struggled to make layups and avoid turnovers as the next four minutes only saw one point, a free throw by UCSB (10-8, 4-1 Big West). But that point set the precedence for the remaining time.
The Mustangs finished the game 16 for 24 on their free throws, a main contribution to the loss, Cal Poly freshman guard Ashlee Stewart said.
“We also tried hard to keep the ball away from Jenna Green but their guards penetrated a lot,” Stewart said.
Cal Poly junior forward Nicole Yarwasky said, “It came down to making layups and free throws. We weren’t finishing our layups. And it was their pressure and their height.”
Cal Poly will be at home for its next three games, starting against Pacific at 7 p.m. Thursday.