For much of the season, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team has relied most heavily on a pair of junior forwards for its offense.
But Megan Harrison and Lisa McBride, who have led the Mustangs in scoring in 11 of their 14 games this season, won’t be the only tandem making its presence felt at Mott Gym when they host Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m.
Forward Toni Thomas and guard Lauren Chow have combined to score more than half of the Titans’ points for the season.
“They’re really tough,” Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said Monday, adding that Thomas, who enters the contest averaging 17.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, looks like an early candidate for Big West Conference Player of the Year.
Chow, on the other hand, has posted 14 points and 3.4 assists per game as a freshman.
“She’s a heck of a player and right on track for being Freshman of the Year in the conference,” Mimnaugh said of the 5-foot-4 sensation who is shooting 96 percent from the free-throw line and claiming 2.5 steals per outing. “She’s an incredible shooter and is really quick. We loved her but we couldn’t sign that position in her class.”
Harrison shares her coach’s respect for the duo, calling Thomas a “really strong post player” and emphasizing a need to stay in front of Chow as well.
“They’ll have three ball handlers up front,” Harrison said. “We just need to play within ourselves. If we take care of (Thomas and Chow), the rest of the team shouldn’t be that big of a problem.”
The Mustangs (5-9, 2-0 BWC), said Harrison, who averages team highs of 14.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, should benefit from playing at home for the first time since Dec. 12 after a four-game road trip.
“It’s nice to be home, especially after the first week of classes,” Harrison said.
Following a six-game losing skid spanning from Nov. 29 to Dec. 18, Cal Poly won its first two conference games, topping Cal State Northridge 78-66 Jan. 3 before handling Long Beach State 76-59 Saturday.
“Right now we’re playing the best team basketball we’ve ever played,” Harrison said. “We have great team chemistry and are really happy with the way the ball is being distributed. Everyone is free to shoot. We couldn’t be more prepared.”
The most efficient of those shooters thus far has been McBride, who was named Monday the Big West Conference Player of the Week. She averaged 19 points and nine rebounds in the Mustangs’ recent pair of victories, and has shot 49.1 percent from the floor, third-best in the conference.
While the Titans (2-10, 1-0 BWC) also won their first conference contest, downing UC Irvine on the road, 69-66 Friday, their head coach, Maryalyce Jeremiah, is looking for more consistency from not only their two leading scorers but the rest of the squad as well.
“Lauren is going to be a really good college player,” Jeremiah said. “She’s a bit inconsistent, but seems to get her numbers, anyway.
“What we want her to do is kind of fall back and be a consistent player. But you have to respect what she can do . she’s still testing what works and what doesn’t at (the college) level.”
Jeremiah also said Thomas needs to regain consistency that she has had in the past, and that her team will need to use its depth to keep up with the Mustangs, who she said will try to take over the game in transition.
“What jumps out is (Cal Poly’s) speed,” Jeremiah said. “Their best asset is how fast they move the ball up the floor. If they have to slow down, I don’t think they’re quite as good.”
That the Mustangs lead the conference in assists, she added, goes to show how well they take advantage of fast-break opportunities.
“You have to slow them down a bit,” she said. “When you’re shooting layups, someone has to pass the ball. That’s their strength.”