Cal Poly women’s basketball Head Coach Faith Mimnaugh didn’t appear to sit down for forty minutes at Saturday’s game against UCSB. Instead, she opted to sprint up and down the sidelines, vehemently applauding every Mustang basket and lividly arguing every unfavorable call.
After Cal Poly defeated Santa Barbara in the Thunderdome for the first time in 23 years, there was little doubt that Mimnaugh’s team had taken on her persona. The Mustangs utilized a wildly aggressive full-court press en route to their 82-71 win, forcing the Gauchos to commit a season-high 29 turnovers in the process. After the game, a much more subdued Mimnaugh was ecstatic about her players’ efforts.
“The players had a belief in themselves that tradition can be overcome, and the Thunderdome has so much tradition,” Mimnaugh said. “Paper, buildings, banners don’t win games, people win games and I have the greatest people behind me, wearing a Cal Poly jersey.”
UCSB expected relentless press from the Mustangs, but Head Coach Mark French was befuddled by Cal Poly’s lopsided 50-35 rebounding advantage.
“Their press didn’t surprise us, although it was surprising how effective it was,” French said. “We thought we’d have a sizeable advantage rebounding; that’s a much, much, bigger concern.”
Santa Barbara played from behind most of the game, falling behind early 18-7 and not making its first field goal until just over eight minutes into the contest.
Junior guard Erin O’Bryan hit a three-pointer and sophomore guard Jessica Wilson made a basket with a foul to spark an 8-0 run late in the game, which cut the Mustang lead to six and gave the 998 fans in attendance new life. Cal Poly senior guard Michelle Henke quickly quelled any thoughts of a comeback with a three-pointer with just over a minute left, giving the Mustangs a commanding 78-67 lead. It was her fifth trey of the game.
“I knew after the three [pointer] the game was sealed; there was confidence across the board,” Henke said. “It was the nail in the coffin.”
The Gauchos felt a void in their backcourt because senior guard Karena Bonds was unable to suit up with a nagging ankle injury. Wilson downplayed the impact of the absence.
“Everyone steps up; I think everyone stepped in and did a good job,” Wilson said.
The win puts Cal Poly in an ideal situation to make a legitimate run at the Big West regular season title at 9-6 overall and 4-1 in the Big West, while Santa Barbara dropped to 8-8 overall and 3-2 in the Big West. For Mimnaugh, the Mustang win was an emotional one.
“I was a little teary after the game,” she said. “I was here a few years ago when Santa Barbara set the record for biggest margin of victory against us.”
As for the Gauchos, they now enter a crucial stretch run, looking up in the standings and playing their next five games away from Santa Barbara.