Molly Schlemer saw the ball go through the hoop and heard someone say, “And one.”
That’s when the Cal Poly center figured teammate Jonae Ervin got poked in the eye, when the point guard tossed up a four-footer while being hacked to give the Mustangs women’s basketball team an eight point first-half lead over visiting Cal State Fullerton.
In reality, Ervin was half-blinded while Cal Poly grabbed a steal on the other end of the court. When the Mustangs pushed the ball on the play, she trailed and dove to the hoop out of instinct.
“I really couldn’t see, and didn’t expect the ball back,” Ervin said. “I just literally tossed it up. It was a prayer. It went in.”
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Said head coach Faith Mimnaugh: “She came back” to the bench, “and she said, ‘I can’t see. I can’t see.’ And I said, ‘Well, you made the shot. We can blindfold you, and you’d still make the shot.”
It was the kind of luck you get when things are going good, and they were.
Cal Poly went on to win 78-40, outscoring Cal State Fullerton 45-16 in the second half.
Ervin didn’t even shoot the free throw after her blind layup. The junior immediately left the game with seven minutes left in the first half to take eye drops. She returned in the second half to register a season-high 15 points with eight assists and six rebounds, one off her career high.
Schlemer scored a game-high 19 points. It was the seventh straight game the former Righetti High standout has scored double digits.
The 6-foot-5 junior was 8 for 10 from the field, and four of her seven rebounds came off the offensive glass.
Each time Schlemer was able to get the ball in the paint, the frustration of the Cal State Fullerton (7-13, 3-5 Big West Conference) defenders was audible.
“When I catch the ball, they’ll be like ‘Oh, shoot,’ ” Schlemer said. “You can just tell that they’re kind of scared, which gives me more confidence in myself.
“That’s more motivation to hear them scared of me, so I just want to give them another reason why.”
Schlemer has been dominant since the start of Big West play. In conference games coming into Thursday, she was averaging 15.7 points on 61.3 percent field-goal shooting — marks that rank her second among Big West players.
“She’s the biggest kid in the conference,” Mimnaugh said. “She’s very, very skilled. She has great scoring ability, She has good footwork and her teammates want to get her the ball. She knows offensively, that’s her great gift that she can give the team.”
Cal Poly (11-8, 5-3) didn’t have a third player with double-digit scoring, but 14 Mustangs played in the blowout, and all but one of them scored. True freshman and former Arroyo Grande High standout Heather Madrigal had a rebound but didn’t shoot in three minutes.
Nikol Allison had eight points and a game-high eight rebounds for Cal Poly.
Cal State Fullerton was led by Annie Park, who scored eight points, including two 3-pointers. Mya Olivier scored seven, and Lauren Bushong scored six and grabbed a team-high six rebounds.
The Titans actually led 8-4 early on as the Mustangs turned the ball over four times in the first four minutes.
But Cal Poly cranked up the defensive pressure and was able to effectively strip the driving Cal State Fullerton guards repeatedly. After taking the four-point lead early on, the Titans turned the ball over 11 times in the final 15 minutes of the first half.
The Mustangs turned steals into transition scores, going on a 19-6 run capped by Ashley Cascio’s free throw filling in for Ervin after the eye poke.
Cal Poly led by as many as 11 in the first half and settled for a 33-24 lead at the break. Instead of allowing the Titans back into the game, as had been the case in a previous home stretch that included close victories over UC Davis and Pacific in early January, the Mustangs poured it on in the second half.
In what looked more like a layup drill than a competitive game, Cal Poly ended with a 46-18 advantage in points in the paint and scored 29 points off Cal State Fullerton’s 20 turnovers.
That’s where the fast-break ability of Ervin and fellow guard Ariana Elegado, who had six assists, made a big difference.
“Not everybody can match my speed,” Ervin said, “not even on my own team, but as long as I push the ball, I feel like I get the defense confused and mixed up like they don’t know where they’re going.”
Big West standings
Big West games All games
W L W L
Pacific 7 1 17 3
Hawaii 5 3 9 10
Northridge 5 3 11 9
Cal Poly 5 3 11 8
Long Beach 4 4 11 9
UC Davis 4 4 9 10
UCSB 4 4 8 12
Fullerton 3 5 7 13
UC Riverside 3 5 10 9
UC Irvine 0 8 4 16
Cal Poly 78, Cal State Fullerton 40; Pacific 68, UC Irvine 47; UC Davis 68, Long Beach State 62; UC Riverside 45, UC Santa Barbara 42.