Senior guard Nwamaka Ofodu scored four points in the Cal Poly women’s basketball team’s 62-60 victory over Hawaii on Saturday.
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The Cal Poly women’s basketball team defeated Hawaii for the second time this year in a 62-60 victory at Mott Athletics Center (MAC) on Saturday, extending its home record to 9-0.
Cal Poly was fueled by the production of its two leading scorers, senior center Molly Schlemer with 20 points and junior Ariana Elegado with 25.
“Our fans are amazing,” Schlemer said. “In the four years I’ve been here, I don’t think there’s been so many fans at every single game. It’s just an atmosphere like no other gym that we play in. Just knowing that we’re playing at home and in Mott is just a great feeling.”
Cal Poly is firing on all cylinders with a record of 8-1 in Big West play. The Mustangs are currently in first place in the conference standings with seven games remaining in the regular season.
Cal Poly is beginning to pick up momentum as each player finds her role on the team, Schlemer said.
“You shut one of us down and other people are going to attack you,” she said. “It’s going to help us as we develop and as others find their strengths. We have to keep noticing those strengths and use them to our advantage.”
Schlemer is the team’s leader in the post, with an arsenal of moves with her back to the basket. She became the 10th player in program history to surpass 1,000 career points as her last bucket on Saturday pushed her to 1,001 points as a Mustang.
Junior Taryn Garza had a game-high 12 boards against the Rainbow Wahine, while Elegado led all scorers with her 25.
“She’s a great player,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said of Elegado. “Who doesn’t love to see her play? I think that she can play professional basketball. She’s a fun player. She loves her teammates and loves to make everybody else better. If she’s not the best guard in the conference, I don’t know who is.”
Elegado averages 17 points, five assists, and four boards per game. This trifecta of production is all part of the blessing she has received from her spiritual devotion, Elegado said.
“Honestly, I’d say it’s all about God,” she said. “Just having faith, having my teammates believe in me and having that mentality that no one can stop us.”
Elegado maintains a team-first mentality in light of her success this season, and she is confident in the team’s ability to bring home some hardware after the Big West tournament.
“We’re definitely moving forward,” she said. “I feel like we’re definitely on the same page as far as trying to win a championship. Everyone’s been stepping up lately.”
Senior Jonae Ervin, who scored 37 points against Hawaii earlier in the season, was out with a knee injury in Saturday’s game. Ervin expressed her desire to participate, but Mimnaugh said she wanted to preserve her star point guard for next week’s set of home games.
“Jonae was going to be brave and go for us today, but I thought it was more prudent to try to hold her back if we could in this game,” Mimnaugh said.
The Mustangs began the game on the wrong side of an 8-0 run by Hawaii, and the deficit grew to as large as nine, but Cal Poly fought back to lead 31-29 at half time.
Mimnaugh stressed the necessity of involving Schlemer during her halftime speech after the senior scored four points in the first half.
“At halftime, coach Faith told them to look inside more,” Schlemer said.
The senior center came out hot in the second half, scoring 10 of the team’s first 11 points in the second period. Schlemer and Elegado led the Mustangs to a comfortable lead in the closing minutes of the game, but Hawaii battled back to within a single possession.
It took a game-winning jumper from Elegado with 20 seconds left to seal the deal.
“I felt like that shot just hit the momentum and the crowd went wild,” Elegado said.
The victory marks the sixth consecutive win for the team and eighth in its last 10 games.
The Mustangs will look to distance themselves from the rest of their Big West opponents as they face Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State at the MAC this coming week.