The second half-rally fell a bit short, two points to be exact.
The Cal Poly women’s basketball team made some costly mistakes in the final minute of its contest against UC Irvine, in a 62-60 loss to the Anteaters on Saturday at Mott Gym.
“Just felt like we played a little bit flat,” Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “We didn’t get into our groove today offensively, mostly because they messed with our rhythm. Congrats to Irvine for playing a good game.”
It’s the Mustangs (6-10, 3-1 Big West) first conference loss of the season. They had posted impressive wins over UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside to open conference play, but against the Anteaters (8-10, 4-2), the Mustangs hit their first speed bump.And to Kristina Santiago, the reason the Mustangs couldn’t maintain their prefect conference record was simple.
“It’s defense and rebounding, that’s pretty much it,” said Santiago, who led Cal Poly with 21 points and 10 rebounds. “You do that, we win the game.”
Santiago had a chance to tie the score in the final minute. Trailing 61-59 with 10 seconds left, Santiago was fouled and went to the line for two shots. But, she missed the first, and sank the second to bring the Mustangs within one.
The Mustangs then fouled, and UC Irvine hit just one free throw to take the two-point lead.
The comeback attempt would end there, though, as Cal Poly turned the ball over on the ensuing inbound pass and then couldn’t get closer.
“We just started to play a little bit more aggressively on the ball,” Mimnaugh said. “I think that’s big for us.”
UC Irvine controlled the tempo from the get-go. Cal Poly guard Kayla Griffin hit that game’s opening basket, but a 3-pointer from Anete Klintsone gave UC Irvine a quick advantage.
A layup from Santiago with 17:10 left in the half put the Mustangs ahead 6-5, but the Anteaters retook the lead after two free throws from Kiara Belen and they never looked back for the rest of the half, taking a 34-28 halftime lead.
“I thought our opponent did a good job of attacking the glass. And clearly had a presence on the boards that was difficult for us to defend in our zone,” Mimnaugh said. “In the second half we played man-to-man, it put us in a more aggressive mindset. Still disappointed in our rebounding.”
Rebounding has been a reoccurring theme for the Mustangs this season, as they’ve been without center Abby Bloetscher for most of the year. She played just a few minutes off the bench for the Mustangs but had no points or rebounds. Her role on the floor will become more significant once she is completely healed from offseason knee surgery.
“She practiced Monday, Tuesday and (Friday) as well, so we’ll work her in,” Mimnaugh said. “She just needs a bit more reps and she’ll be back to doing some damage soon.”
Ashlee Burns was the Mustangs’ second-leading scorer with 12 points. Both Kayla Griffin and Caroline Reeves had nine.