To the end, the Cal Poly women’s basketball team was constantly wary of history repeating itself in Thursday night’s 66-49 victory over Cal State Northridge.
Molly Schlemer helped make sure that didn’t happen.
In the previous matchup, a 10-point Matadors victory in double overtime last month, the Mustangs
(15-9, 9-4 Big West) squandered a double-digit lead in the final four minutes of regulation.
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In the first overtime, shifty Cal State Northridge point guard Ashlee Guay sped right at the 6-foot-5 Cal Poly center for a driving layup with five seconds left to force the second overtime. The Matadors (13-13, 7-7 Big West) took over from there.
When Guay tried the same move with the game still in the balance early in the second half Thursday, Schlemer turned her away with an emphatic swat that helped key a 13-2 run during what proved to be the decisive stage.
“It stuck with me a lot,” Schlemer said, “and I just remembered what she’s good at and what she does. She’s one of those players that just goes and goes, and I knew if I just got in her way and timed her shot, I was going to be able to do that.”
One of Schlemer’s career-high four blocks, the rejection came just moments after Schlemer hustled down the floor on a fast-break give-and-go to Jonae Ervin for the layup.
“Those were really big plays,” Schlemer said. “There were a couple plays right in the beginning of the half where we felt like the energy picked up all of a sudden.”
With the emotional lift, Cal Poly turned a six-point lead into a 45-28 advantage in a span of just 3:40.
Schlemer scored nine of her game-high 22 points during the run. She finished 10 of 14 from the floor and also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. Nikoll Allison added 10 points and five rebounds.
Schlemer is “doing great, and I’m glad glad we all see that, too,” Ervin said.
“She’s looking like an all-star professional player. I don’t think anyone can stop her when she gets the ball. And she knows her back-up plan. She knows how to pass it out of the double team.”
Ervin scored 10 points and tied a career high with 11 assists for the second straight game. She also added six rebounds.
It was the third 11-assist game for Ervin this season and just two off the program record 13 set by Sparkle Anderson in 2006. Arianna Elegado had eight points and seven assists, and as a team, Cal Poly recorded 23 assists on 30 field goals.
“I’m really happy that I get an assist,” Ervin said, “and they’re even more happy that they get the points. So, it just makes the atmosphere a lot better and gets our team going.”
Guay had 17 points as the only Matadors player in double figures, and after falling behind by 17, Cal State Northridge never got back to within 10.
That never eased the angst on the Mustangs sideline, not after the Mustangs missed four free throws and three layups in the final three minutes of regulation in the loss at Northridge.
“They were making a run at us in the second half,” Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “It looked like we were just falling back into not having great ball movement and not utilizing all of the teammates. Once we got refocused and went back to what we do best. Then we were able to create a little bit more of a lead again.”
The victory sets up a showdown with Hawaii at 4 p.m. on Saturday. With five regular season games left for the Mustangs, they sit a half game behind the Rainbow Wahine and Pacific for first place.
Cal Poly would love to pass one or both of the teams above it in the standings, since the top two in the regular season get byes to the semifinal round of the Big West Tournament.
“Obviously, we’ve still got a whole bunch of games left it feels like,” Mimnaugh said, “so, it’s not the game, but to be able to make an upward movement on the ladder, it’s a big game.”