The Cal Poly women’s basketball team already has its bye into the semifinals of next week’s Big West Conference Tournament.
All that’s left until then is for the Mustangs to secure their third straight regular-season Big West title.
After a 76-36 victory over UC Irvine on Thursday at Mott Gym, one more win victory will do it.
If Cal Poly (19-9, 13-4 Big West) can close out the regular season by beating visiting Long Beach State on Saturday, the program will have its trio of titles when just a few years ago it had none.
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“We’ve been working for that all season,” Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “There’s definitely been some inspired play. … We’re playing some of our best ball at the right time of the year.”
Junior center Molly Schlemer has a shot to become the Mustangs’ fourth conference player of the year.
The former Righetti High standout scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Cal Poly over the visiting Anteaters (9-20, 4-13 Big West), adding to her team-leading 12.9 scoring average.
Schlemer’s overall scoring total is just sixth in the conference, but since the start of Big West play, she ranks second in the conference with 15.7 points per game and sixth with 7.7 rebounds.
She also came into the week ranking ninth in the country in field-goal percentage (56.4). With 15.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, Hawaii’s Kamilah Martin is another candidate, Mimnaugh said.
“I’m not sure if she’s going to get it,” Mimnaugh said of Schlemer, “but I think it’s probably going to be between her and Martin from Hawaii.
“Molly’s ranking in national field goal percentage would give some of the other coaches pause for considering her.
“She’s amazing. She’s doing an unbelievable job for us, and I couldn’t be more proud of her for what she’s put into her game.”
Including Thursday’s victory, the Mustangs have won nine of their past 10, with the only loss coming against UC Davis in early February in a game Schlemer was shut out.
Against UC Irvine, sophomore guard Ariana Elegado scored 16 points, including 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point range, and handed out four assists. Nikol Allison came off the bench to score eight points and grab nine rebounds, and Kayla Griffin had a balanced game with five points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Spurred by three straight 3-pointers to start the game, Cal Poly jumped out to a 19-3 lead before the Anteaters clawed back toward the end of the first half. UC Irvine went into the half on a 19-7 run to get to within 27-22.
By the 15-minute mark in the second half, the Mustangs had pushed the lead back to double digits, and UC Irvine did little to catch up. The Anteaters were outscored 37-10 in the second half.
Camille Buckley led UC Irvine with 10 points and nine rebounds but was the lone Anteaters player to score in double figures. Teammate Anete Klinstone had nine points and hit UC Irvine’s lone 3-pointer. The Anteaters were 1 for 17 from 3-point range.