Freshman point guard Abbey Ellis scored 37 points to propel Cal Poly Women’s Basketball to their first Big West Conference win in a 75-70 victory against UC Riverside Thursday, Jan. 23 inside Mott Athletics Center. The Mustangs closed an 8-point deficit in the fourth period to surge ahead in the last seconds of the game.
“[Ellis] really had that mindset today, to attack, attack, attack and you can see what kind of scorer she can be,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “One of the best performances I’ve seen in a Cal Poly uniform.”
Cal Poly (1-3 Big West 4-11) went 15 for 15 from the free throw line in the victory. UC Riverside (2-2, 6-12) led by as much as 14 points in the third period before Cal Poly’s fourth-quarter scoring surge.
Ellis went 14 for 20 from the floor and 3 for 6 from three-point range in route to her career-high performance while junior forward Sierra Campisano added 20 points of her own. The Mustangs’ air tight defense in the fourth quarter prevented UC Riverside from scoring any points in the last two minutes of the game.
“We won with defense,” Ellis said. “We were a different team out there. We showed grit and we shut everyone down.”
The Highlanders and Mustangs traded points to open the scoring before UC Riverside capped off the first quarter with three consecutive free throws to take an early 20-15 lead. Senior forward Alicia Roufosse scored a jump shot to open the second quarter, but the Highlanders responded with seven unanswered points to extend their lead to 27-17.
Back-to-back Cal Poly jump shots pulled the Mustangs within eight points with 3:44 remaining in the half. However, UC Riverside maintained the gap as it carried a 38-30 advantage into the break.
A jump shot from senior forward Marina Ewodo granted UC Riverside its largest lead of the night at 46-32 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter. Despite the 14-point advantage, pinpoint free throw shooting allowed the Mustangs to execute a 10-0 run, pulling themselves back within single-digits at 46-42.
Campisano scored two free throws in the last minute, but a three-pointer from UC Riverside’s Keilanei Cooper sent the Highlanders into the final quarter with a 54-49 advantage.
Ellis kept the Mustangs’ comeback hopes alive with Cal Poly’s first nine points of the fourth quarter. After a layup from Highlander forward Skyler Lewis provided UC Riverside with an eight-point lead at 66-58, the Mustangs responded with a 8-3 run to pull within three points.
Ellis hit a decisive three-pointer to cut the deficit to 70-69 with just 1:39 remaining on the clock. The Australia native followed up with a jump shot 38 seconds later to grant the Mustangs a 71-70 advantage. Ellis scored her final points through a pair of free throws before Campisano scored two additional buckets from the line for a 75-70 lead.
“We have had so many close games and lost on our free throw shooting,” Mimanugh said. “So today, to see them be 100 percent from the free throw line, again shows the dedication that they are putting into every aspect of the game … they took to heart all the things they’ve been working on.”
UC Riverside attempted to force one final layup, but the attempt fell short as Cal Poly completed the 75-70 comeback victory.
Ellis and Campisano combined for 57 of Cal Poly’s 75 points in the win.
“I was trying to attack the basket and draw some fouls and get some stuff going for my team,” Campisano said. “[Ellis and I] just communicated a lot on the court and one of us was going to be open on the pick and roll…we both have complete confidence and trust in each other.”
Cal Poly remains at home for its next match against UC Davis on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Campisano said. “We worked so hard this week and really wanted this win. We’ve been in a lot of close games in conference so far and so we really put the pieces together. Everyone stepped up to the plate, and I’m so happy and proud to be a part of this team.”