Cal Poly fell short of reaching the Big West title game after losing to UC Irvine in the semifinal round of the Big West Tournament, 68-59 on Saturday, March 12 at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.
The two teams claimed the lead six different times throughout the game, which wasn’t determined until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Sophomore point guard Abbey Ellis led the Mustangs (13-11, 8-8 Big West) with 15 points. Ellis was also the leader in three-point shots with two, and the co-leader in rebounds with eight along with sophomore guard Maddie Willett.
The first quarter started with UC Irvine (15-8, 11-4) claiming the lead with two layups to jump out to a 4-0 lead. Willett put the Mustangs on the board with a three-point shot halfway through the quarter which began a run for Cal Poly’s offense. The Mustangs scored eight unanswered points to make the score 12-4 at the 1:31 mark. Cal Poly retained the lead and finished the quarter with a nine-point lead at 16-7.
The Mustangs held the lead through the beginning of the second quarter, but the Anteaters would surge back. Irvine outscored the Mustangs 18-9 in the first half of the quarter, tying the score 25-25 at the 4:26 mark.
Cal Poly regained the lead as junior forward Hannah Scanlan put two points on the board with a layup in the paint. Scanlan continued to put up points as she drilled a jumper to put the Mustangs up by three. Cal Poly maintained the lead going into halftime with the score sitting at 34-31.
In the first half, Cal Poly recorded better shooting percentages in field goals (51.7%) and three-point shots (33.3%). Irvine led the game at the half in free throw percentage with a perfect 100%.
The second half started with the Mustangs scoring first as Willett sunk her second free throw after missing the first. The Mustangs continued to increase the lead as Ellis scored three points after being fouled on a layup, making the score 40-34 at the 7:12 mark of the third quarter.
Irvine worked to get back into the game, scoring five points to get within one point. The two teams remained neck-and-neck as the third quarter ended sitting tied at 48.
The Anteaters started the final quarter with a three-point shot from Haleigh Talbert to give Irvine the lead 51-48 at the 9:02 mark. The two teams continued to tie the score two times in one minute. Both teams failed to score for the next two minutes until Cal Poly scored two points from a layup by Willett.
The Mustangs held on to the lead until Irvine retook the lead after a layup from Victoria Baker, making the score 58-57 with 3:47 left in the game. This would be the last lead change as the Anteaters retained the lead through the rest of the game, ending with a score of 68-59.
The Mustangs finished the game shooting better a better field goal percentage (41.8%) and outrebounding than their opponents 33-31.
The Mustangs’ finished their 2020-2021 season winning two more games than their previous season despite playing five fewer games. The team reached the semifinals of the Big West Tournament in the last two seasons. Cal Poly also finished the season with both Ellis (15.3) and senior forward Sierra Campisano (15.8) as the Big West leaders in points per game. Campisano also finished as the fourth leader in rebounds per game (8.7).