Well aware that her team was getting pounded on the boards, Christine Martin saw a loose rebound under the basket and latched onto it.
What the Cal Poly forward didn’t realize, however, was that the only other player competing for the ball was teammate Abby Bloetscher.
The two wrestled it away from each other and it bounced right into the shooting pocket of San Diego forward Morgan Woodrow, who layed it up off the glass to give the Toreros a 21-point lead with nine minutes left in Saturday’s women’s basketball game in Mott Gym.
Despite a comeback that cut the deficit to six, Cal Poly (3-3) still fell 73-65, and the Mustangs’ trouble grabbing rebounds was the biggest reason why.
They couldn’t seem to bring them in, even when they did get their hands on them.
“There was so many times when we were fighting for rebounds and they ended up with it,” Martin said. “It was really frustrating. Our rebounding today was really lacking, and that kind of affected the result.”
San Diego (4-5), which outrebounded Cal Poly 46-26, had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Mustangs had defensive (17), and the Toreros ended up with 21 second-chance points.
“I felt like our effort was marginal, and we waited until about nine minutes to go before we started to play Cal Poly basketball,” Mustangs head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “So today was embarrassing for me personally and hopefully, it was embarrassing to the players also.”
It did not help when Cal Poly leading scorer Kristina Santiago left the game with two fouls in the first two minutes and the rest of the Mustangs seemed timid in the face of aggressive on-ball pressure by San Diego and almost no space for their spot-up shooters.
Rachel Clancy, a catch-shoot-specialist who came into the game averaging more than 12 points, did not attempt a field goal in the first half and finished with just three attempts and three points.
Playing in her third game since transferring from San Jose State, Martin had her Cal Poly career high with nine points, and Becky Tratter added 11.
But before the Mustangs began making their furious comeback in the final nine minutes, Tratter was the only player beside Santiago who had even attempted more than three field goals.
Santiago finished with 21 points in a team-high 33 minutes of play, but after those two early fouls, she had to play carefully. Even an offensive foul would have put her in jeopardy of starting the second half on the bench.
Just 13 seconds into the game, San Diego had already drawn two fouls, one on Desiray Johnston and the other on Santiago, who hammered Toreros point guard Dominique Conners in the lane after Conners rebounded her own missed free throw.
It might not have been apparent at the time, but the Mustangs’ failure to box out Conners on that play was textbook foreshadowing of what was to come.
Less than two minutes later, Santiago — the team’s leading scorer at 17.6 points per game — picked up her second foul and forced Mimnaugh to take her best player out of the game early on.
Santiago sat less than four minutes and did not pick up her third foul until seven minutes into the second half, but from that first minute when the Toreros began pushing the pace, Cal Poly played from its heels.
“They were more aggressive,” Tratter said. “They turned it up a little more, and I think we were kind of shocked, and we weren’t as ready. We didn’t know that they were going to be that aggressive and more of an aggressor than we were.”
Falling behind by as many as 13 in the first half, Cal Poly cut the lead to four with 3:51 left before the break. The Mustangs got to within four again 3:26 into the second half after Clancy nailed a 3-pointer on her first shot of the game.
But Cal Poly would not make another field goal until Martin scored a layup with 7:36 left in the game.
The Mustangs, who average 16 3-point attempts per game, put up a season low seven from beyond the arc. Still, the lack of shot production took a backseat to the lopsided rebounding totals.
“It is embarrassing because that’s definitely not how we play,” Santiago said.
“We worked on boxouts the whole entire week in practice and all we worked on was rebounding. And we had horrible practices. Practices reflect on the game, and it totally did today and they exposed us in a lot of areas.”