Junior guard Lynn Leaupepe scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but the Cal Poly women’s basketball team fell 87-79 against Hawaii in a Big West Conference matchup Thursday night at Mott Athletics Center.
Senior forward Hannah Gilbert added 14 points and six rebounds before fouling out for the Mustangs, who dropped to 6-11 overall and 2-3 against conference opponents following their third consecutive defeat.
The Rainbow Warriors, who were winless in their first seven road games of the season, rallied behind a 25-point, six-assist performance from junior guard Sarah Toeaina. Brianna Harris, the lone senior on Hawaii’s new-look roster, added 24 points, six rebounds and four assists in the victory.
“They’re a physical team, they’re a tough team,” Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said, “and they were tougher than us tonight for sure.”
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The Rainbow Warriors (6-10, 2-2 Big West) entered Thursday’s contest averaging a conference-low 56.1 points per game, while shooting 36.1 percent from the field, also the lowest mark in the conference.
That didn’t stop Hawaii from establishing a comfortable lead in the first half. With Toeaina leading the way, the Rainbow Warriors made 14 of their first 19 shots from the field, building a 43-37 advantage by halftime.
They went on to shoot 56.9 percent overall and shot a combined 23-for-36 at the free-throw line, with 17 of those made free throws coming in the fourth quarter.
“I think a lot of it is effort,” Mimnaugh said of the Mustangs’ defense. “They’re good athletes, but I don’t know that they’re that far superior. They made us look like we were in junior high school and they were in college.”
Boost off the bench
Cal Poly’s reserve players provided a key spark offensively.
Former Atascadero High standout Mary Kate Evans matched her career high with 11 points in 15 minutes. Junior guard Gabby Grupalo contributed nine points and two steals, and junior center Nikki Fausey scored all six of her points during the second quarter.
The Mustangs out-rebounded Hawaii 36-35 but couldn’t overcome a 5-for-22 shooting performance from behind the 3-point line.
“I just felt like we didn’t have the kind of defensive focus that we need to,” Mimnaugh said. “(Hawaii is) a team that scores in the 50s and they had 43 at halftime. Disappointed.”
The Mustangs will go back on the road to play CSUN at 4 p.m. Saturday. Cal Poly is scheduled to face Hawaii in Honolulu Jan. 28.