The Cal Poly women's basketball team knew its game with Santa Clara would be the last chance to work out some of the kinks before the start of Big West Conference play on Sunday.
Without the conference’s reigning player of the year, Kristina Santiago, and outside threat Christine Martin because of injury, Mustangs head coach Faith Mimnaugh has had precious little game time to tinker with new lineups and rotations.
If Thursday was any indication, Mimnaugh could have used a little more time to prepare for the conference season. Cal Poly had the usual ups and downs of discovering new player combinations, falling 73-65 to Santa Clara in overtime on Thursday afternoon in Mott Gym.
Without their No. 1 scoring option, the Mustangs have been forced to rely more on movement without the ball and other intangibles.The hard work paid off early as Cal Poly (5-7) went on a 14-0 run to take control at 16-7.
Caroline Reeves hit a nifty up and under layup off glass, before two possessions later coming up with an offensive rebound and kicking out to Ashlee Burns for a deep 3-pointer.
Burns has been one of the players Mimnaugh has called upon to put up some of the numbers lost when Santiago went down.
With the two teams playing even down the stretch, Burns hit a pull-up 3-pointer with five seconds left in the half to give the Mustangs a 36-31 lead. She led all scorers with 14 points at the break on 5 of 6 shooting and finished with a team-high 20 points – two off of her career high.
If the Mustangs are going to compete in the Big West Conference without Santiago and Martin, the team will have to win the battle for the hustle points.
Cal Poly outscored Santa Clara 15-4 in points off turnovers and second chance points in the first half.
But, the second half and overtime were a different story. Santa Clara scored 12 points off turnovers,
Still, the Mustangs will have their work cutout for them in conference play. Due to the injuries, Cal Poly is starting a very small four-guard lineup with Abby Bloetscher as the lone true post player.
The lack of size hurt the Mustangs at times against Santa Clara as forward Lena Gipson got inside for several layup opportunities. When the defense collapsed on her, Gipson kicked out to an open Meagan Fulps, who scored 11 first-half points to lead the Broncos.
Fulps had consecutive 3-point play chances after rebounding her own free throw miss early in the second half, the two baskets gave Santa Clara a 49-44 lead.
Desiray Johnston cut the Santa Clara lead to 63-61 with 2:25 to go with two free throws and had two chances to tie or give Cal Poly the lead. Johnston missed a driving layup attempt to tie the game, then seconds later, after Cayla Griffin saved the offensive rebound, Johnston missed a 3-pointer for the lead.
But she would get another chance.
Johnston cut to the rim for a layup to tie the game with 19.3 seconds to go, and the Mustangs would hold to force overtime.Cal Poly went cold in overtime, hitting just one of five shots, and missing its only two free throw attempts. Meanwhile, Santa Clara (3-10) hit three of five from the field and four of five from the line to win.