It was the wrong time to have an off game.
With a share of a third straight Big West Conference regular-season title on the line, Molly Schlemer’s hot streak was halted by a dominant effort from Long Beach State center Devin Hudson, and the Cal Poly women’s basketball team combined to shoot just 25.7 percent from the floor in the second half of Saturday’s 71-58 loss to the 49ers.
Had the Mustangs (19-10, 13-5 Big West) beaten Long Beach State (16-14, 9-9 Big West) in the regular-season finale at Mott Gym, they would have secured the top seed in next week’s conference tournament and at least a share of the regular season title.
As it is, Pacific will hold the title outright, and Cal Poly will go into the Big West Tournament with a bye into Friday’s semifinals as the No. 2 seed.
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“The loss stings us because we really wanted to send our seniors out with a win,” Mustangs head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “We wanted to be able to take care of our own destiny trying to get our third championship.
“I’m still really proud of the team. Everybody picked us to finish fourth in the league, and we obviously overachieved that projection.”
Schlemer came into the game ranked second in the conference with 15.8 points per Big West games. After picking up her second foul with 10:51 left in the first half, she went to the bench and was scoreless at halftime.
Picking up her third foul just 1:18 into the second half, Schlemer fouled out in just 13 minutes on the court and went 1 for 9 from the field with four points and six rebounds.
The 6-foot-3 Hudson was 9 for 14 from the floor for 22 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, 16 defensive, and two blocks, intimidating every shooter on the floor for Cal Poly.
“Hudson was just amazing,” Mimnaugh said. “That proved that she’s one of the best players in the league. It didn’t matter who we threw at her, she answered the call every single time.
“Molly’s had a great season, she’s one of the reasons we’re in second place. I still believe in her, even if she had a cruddy game today.”
The loss ended a six-game winning streak for the Mustangs. They hadn’t lost since Schlemer was held scoreless in a 79-69 loss at UC Davis on Feb. 9, and they hadn’t lost at home since a four-point loss to San Francisco on Dec. 18, a streak of nine games.
Cal Poly finished with an 8-1 record at home in conference play.
Subbing in for Schlemer, senior Nikol Allison tied for team highs with 13 points and nine rebounds in her final game in Mott Gym. Sophomore guard Ariana Elegado also had 13 points, including 3-for-10 shooting from 3-point range.
Senior Caroline Reeves helped carry the Mustangs to a 32-27 halftime lead by scoring 10 of her 12 points before the break on 3-of-4 shooting from the field. Reeves also had two assists, two steals and a block in the first half and finished with four steals.
Senior Kayla Griffin scored just two points but grabbed nine rebounds, playing the entire game.
Alex Sanchez had 16 points and four assists, and Lauren Spargo had 12 points for Long Beach State, which overcame 20 turnovers to win. The 49ers took their first lead of the second half when Hudson made back-to-back baskets for a 35-33 lead at the 15:30 mark.
Long Beach State took the lead for good with10:58 left on a jumper by Bianka Balthazar and finished the game on a 31-18 run.
“I’m disappointed in the result,” Mimnaugh said, “but not the effort.”