Down two of its top seven players, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team stayed with Hawaii for as long as it could Thursday night.
Playing without senior point guard Lisa Marie Sanchez and reserve forward Rachel Koehler, the short-handed Mustangs lost their fourth consecutive game, 64-58, to conclude the first half of the Big West Conference schedule.
After a back-and-forth game for the better part of three quarters, the visiting Rainbow Warriors (13-9, 6-3 Big West) began the final period by making 7 of 9 shots from the field to build an 11-point lead.
That proved to be enough to overcome a career-best performance from Cal Poly sophomore Dynn Leaupepe, who came off the bench to score a game-high 31 points and grab six rebounds in 30 minutes.
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“She’s really in rhythm,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “Obviously, we’re running a lot more stuff for her so that she can get some shots. But she’s got that kind of (way) about her that she wants to be that type of scorer for us.
“She had a terrific game.”
How it happened:
Cal Poly (10-11, 3-5 Big West) led 47-46 with 8:41 remaining in the fourth quarter when Hawaii senior forward Destiny King took control.
Playing in the 114th game of her career, King scored eight of her team-high 12 points in the final period to put the Mustangs away and seal the Rainbow Warriors’ third consecutive victory.
“King was a big factor,” Mimnaugh said. “ … I thought that she stepped up, as you would expect a senior to do, and led her team to victory.”
Marissa Wimbley added 11 points and four rebounds for Hawaii, which is tied with UC Santa Barbara for third in the conference standings. Those two teams will meet at 2 p.m. Saturday in Santa Barbara.
Leaupepe’s big night:
Leaupepe, a guard from Camarillo, has come off the bench in all 21 games and continues to provide the Mustangs with immediate offense. She averages 9.5 points and has scored in double figures 11 times this season.
Leaupepe scored 12 of Cal Poly 22 points in the second quarter, helping the Mustangs take a 31-29 lead into halftime. She finished the game 13 of 29 from the field, scoring five points in the final 3 seconds to bring the score to its final margin.
“We have to continue to still really focus on having good balance,” Mimnaugh said. “It’s not gonna be a one-person show. That’s always something to caution. But she’s playing really good basketball.”
Mimnaugh said Sanchez, a 20-game starter and one of the Mustangs’ most efficient 3-point shooters, will not be available for at least the next two games as she recovers from an ankle injury suffered against Long Beach State.
Koehler has been sidelined following a concussion and Mimnaugh wasn’t sure when she would be able to return moving forward.
With Sanchez out, freshman Dye Stahley and sophomore Gabby Grupalo both played more than 18 minutes against Hawaii. Naturally defensive-minded players, the two underclassmen combined for five points, six rebounds and four assists.
“I think it was really valuable for them to gain the time,” Mimnaugh said.
Cal Poly returns to Mott Athletics at 4 p.m. Saturday when the Mustangs host UC Irvine. The Anteaters (4-18, 1-7 Big West) are eighth in the conference standings and have lost 13 of their last 14 games.
When the two teams met in Irvine last month, Cal Poly cruised to a 72-54 victory behind a career-high 25 points from Grupalo.
“Every matchup, I think, is tough for us,” Mimnaugh said. “They have two small guards, so that’ll be, again, another challenge for us from a defensive position.”