When it looked like the Cal Poly women’s basketball team was headed for its first home loss in nearly two months on Thursday night, Beth Balbierz did what she does best.
With the Mustangs trailing Cal State Northridge by three points and 7 seconds remained in regulation, the 5-foot-9 senior guard curled off a screen and made her third 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
From there, Cal Poly held the visiting Matadors scoreless for nearly 4 minutes and held on for a 66-62 overtime victory in a Big West Conference matchup inside Mott Athletics Center.
“Beth is smart enough to know she needed a three and had a great look at the bucket,” head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “It did look like it was gonna go and they got to her a little bit late to contest.”
The Mustangs (10-7, 3-1 Big West) held an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but a young Matadors team refused to go away.
After Nautica Morrow stripped Cal Poly’s Amanda Lovely under the hoop, Cal State Northridge (2-16, 0-4 Big West) raced to the other end and Katelin King buried a 3-pointer to put the visitors ahead 56-55.
Serafina Maulupe and Channon Fluker each split a pair of free throws during the final 17 seconds of the fourth quarter, leaving the door open for a more-experienced Mustangs team. Balbierz then made her team-leading 36th 3-pointer of the season, bringing her four-year total to 117 made 3-pointers.
“I got chills,” said junior forward Hannah Gilbert, who turned in a career-best performance and carried the Mustangs offensively for long stretches.
The Morro Bay graduate scored a career-high 24 points on 12-for-25 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots in 41 minutes. Gilbert, who leads the Big West in rebounding at 9.6 per game, has scored in double figures in seven consecutive games and 13 times in 17 contests this season.
Gilbert got a couple decent looks at the basket toward the end of regulation with a chance to tie the score, but couldn’t convert on three well-defended opportunities. She quickly responded by scoring the Mustangs’ first two baskets in overtime to seal their sixth straight home victory.
“That was kind of a wake-up call for me,” Gillbert said. “If my team needs me, I need to make sure I make those shots. So I’ll be practicing those shots for quite a while.”
Cal State Northridge’s full-court pressure gave the Mustangs some trouble in the first half, though neither team was able to establish much rhythm offensively. They combined for 28 turnovers and 19 fouls before halftime, shooting a combined 31.6 percent from the field.
Sophomore guard Lynn Leaupepe helped steady Cal Poly and she scored 10 of her 15 points in the first two quarters to go with nine rebounds, four steals and two assists in 29 minutes.
“At halftime Coach Faith kind of put it all into perspective,” Gilbert said. “It’s a game, time of possession is crucial. So we just kind of took a breath and relaxed.”
Cal Poly now turns its attention to UC Davis, which visits Mott Athletics center at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Aggies (10-7, 3-1 Big West) had their four-game winning streak snapped during a 66-59 loss at UC Santa Barbara Thursday night.