Motivated by a four-game losing streak and eager to begin the new year on a positive note, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team turned in one of its most complete performances of the season Thursday night.
The Mustangs rallied from a nine-point deficit to defeat visiting UC Santa Barbara 78-67 during the Big West Conference opener for both teams inside Mott Athletics Center. Cal Poly (5-8, 1-0 Big West) ended its frustrating skid with a Blue-Green Rivalry victory and improved to 5-2 on its home court this season.
Junior guard Dynn Leaupepe scored 19 of her game-high 29 points in the second half and also pulled down eight rebounds and handed out five assists. Twin sister Lynn Leaupepe added 26 points on 9-for-13 shooting, to go with nine rebounds and two assists.
“Once we were able to get some stops and get some transition points,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said, “I think it helped us relax a little bit and get into a flow.”
How it happened
A scrappy Gauchos defense that ranks among the best in the Big West lived up to that billing early.
UC Santa Barbara (5-9, 0-1 Big West) forced the Mustangs into 13 first-half turnovers and scored 12 points off those miscues to take a 35-29 lead into halftime.
The lead didn’t last long, with the Leaupepe sisters combining to score 16 points during a third-quarter spurt that gave Cal Poly a 52-50 advantage heading into the final period. Lynn Leaupepe scored 10 of those points to help Cal Poly regain its footing.
“I think we kind of found ourselves again throughout this game,” Lynn Leaupepe said.
A 9-1 run to start the fourth quarter gave the Mustangs just enough breathing room to hold on down the stretch.
Dynn Leaupepe made sure Cal Poly wouldn’t suffer a fifth straight loss by scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter. She finished the game 9-for-17 from the field and 11-for-11 at the free-throw line.
“I think we all had that attitude like we’re just sick of losing,” Dynn Leaupepe said. “We’re going to show everyone we’re not going to be a losing team this year. Again, we’re playing our rival school so we wanted to show out and make sure that we started 2017 on a good note.”
In the paint
Senior forwards Hannah Gilbert (13 points, seven rebounds) and Amanda Lovely (eight points, game-high 12 rebounds) delivered steady performances.
They defended UC Santa Barbara’s imposing 6-foot-4 forward Drew Edelman well and limited her to five points and seven rebounds in 37 minutes.
Cal Poly held a 47-28 rebounding advantage and made 53.8 percent of its field goals, nearly 16 percentage points better than the team’s season average.
“Our rebounding was awesome,” Mimnaugh said, “which created opportunities for us to get transition scores. I’m very pleased.”
The Mustangs will be back in action at 4 p.m. Saturday when they host CSUN. The Matadors defeated Cal State Fullerton 58-41 on Thursday.