The Cal Poly women’s basketball team traveled to UC Riverside on Thursday night looking to gain a few spots in the Big West conference standings, but fell 93-83 despite a furious comeback in the third quarter.
On a night where the Mustangs (10-9, 3-3 Big West) outshot the Highlanders (13-7, 6-0) from the field and from three-point range, Cal Poly couldn’t overcome a 50-36 halftime deficit. Junior forward Hannah Gilbert provided another double-double with 13 rebounds and 12 points to lead the starters, and senior guard Beth Balbierz had 12 points in the game.
But the story of the night for Cal Poly was the play of reserve sophomore guard Dynn Leaupepe.
Going in to the third quarter, the Big West-leading Highlanders’ 50-36 advantage seemed insurmountable. But Leaupepe scored 12 points in the third quarter alone to help Cal Poly win the quarter 30-19 and close the gap to three points.
However, her efforts in the second half weren’t enough as UC Riverside opened up a 10-point lead on its way to a win. Leaupepe finished the game with a team-high 25 points, 19 of which came in the second half.
The Mustangs were able to control the paint, outscoring the Highlanders there 38-32, but couldn’t gain an advantage on the boards. Turnovers also were a problem — Cal Poly committed 14 on the night — but defensive efforts kept UC Riverside from capitalizing on them, holding the Highlanders to just 10 points off turnovers. A major disparity in the game came at the foul line, as UC Riverside outshot the Mustangs 83 percent to 58 percent.
This game was a good chance for the Mustangs to gauge the level of competition from the top of the conference. The Highlanders are far better as the home team than the visitors (6-1 at home and 6-6 on the road) and can expect a closer game when they play Cal Poly on Feb. 13 at Mott Athletics Center.
The loss dropped the Mustangs to sixth in the conference, but four of the teams above them are only one game ahead in the win column. Cal Poly continues its road trip Saturday at Long Beach State (15-5, 4-2), and a win could vault the Mustangs into the Big West’s top three.