The Cal Poly women’s basketball team (2-1) dropped its home opener Friday night to Loyola Marymount, who pounded the Mustangs inside the paint in the second half to break open a close game, and hand the Mustangs their first loss of the season.
The Mustangs are still trying to adjust to the absence of Big West Player of the Year Kristina Santiago, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Despite the injury to her star player, head coach Faith Mimnaugh said she is confident her team can win the Big West championship, but said they haven’t had much time to fine-tune their game.
“We really haven’t had much time to make any particular adjustments,” Mimnaugh said. “We’re kind of doing the same thing but players are trying different roles. People who were used to being complementary and setting up Kristina are now having to do some scoring and we haven’t worked it out yet.”
With Santiago out, Cal Poly received contributions from a number of different players. Guards Rachel Clancy and Jonae Ervin posted 10 points each, while guard Christine Martin scored seven, center Abby Bloetscher added six and guard Desiray Johnston notched five on two of three shots.
Coming off a career-high 22 points against Fresno State, guard Ashlee Burns led the team in scoring for the second time this season with 14 points in just 17 minutes of play.
Clancy said with Santiago out, Cal Poly is going to have to rely on all of its players to contribute.
“One person isn’t going to come in and whip up 20 points and nine rebounds a night,” Clancy said. “We need a bunch of people to come in and score two, or four extra points here and there and people have been doing that.”
Cal Poly earned an early 21-13 lead and was shooting 48 percent with nine minutes remaining in the first half. But eight turnovers in the last eight minutes of play allowed LMU back in the game, and take a 30-27 lead at halftime.
But the Mustangs were able to battle back from down eight early in the second half and a 3-pointer from Burns gave Cal Poly a one-point lead with 11 minutes remaining against the Lions.
LMU forward, Alex Cowling, who is averaging 22.7 points and eight rebounds a game this season, was quick to respond and began taking advantage of Cal Poly’s vulnerable inside defense. Cowling, who tied a career-high 31 points, scored 14 of those points in the last 11 minutes to lead LMU to a 77-58 victory.
Mimnaugh said she was disappointed the Cal Poly defense could not hold off LMU as they scored 20 points inside the paint in the second half.
“I thought they kicked our butts,” Mimnaugh said. “We held on for a while but then our defense broke down. Easily one of our poorest performances from a defensive standpoint that I’ve seen this year from us.”
Burns said in addition to the defense falling apart, the team needs to look at their offense, which made only three of their last 12 shots.
“We went away from what we do best,” Burns said. “We didn’t really have much of an offense. We just kind of fell apart. I don’t know what happened.”
Cal Poly won’t have a chance to redeem themselves at home for almost four weeks, traveling to Illinois, Arizona and Minnesota before returning to Mott Gym for their second home game of the season versus San Francisco on Dec. 15.