An inside-out game is nearly impossible to stop when it’s played well.
With junior guard Ariana Elegado’s outside shooting and senior center Molly Schlemer on the inside, Cal Poly had an unstoppable duo Saturday in San Luis Obispo as the UCSB women’s basketball fell 88-70 in the team’s Big West opener.
Elegado and Schlemer nearly single-handedly downed the Gauchos, combining for 67 points, three points less than the entire Santa Barbara squad.
“They have a great one-two punch just about every night,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “Schlemer remains the inside force and gives them a double-double every night. And then Elegado and [senior guard Jonae] Ervin just rotate on who’s going to carry the burden on the offensive end of it. [Ervin] had 37 in Hawaii and Elegado had 30 tonight. That’s tough when you’re trying to play zone and it’s hard to match-up one-on-one with Schlemer on the inside.”
Schlemer led the way for Cal Poly, scoring a career-high 37 points on 16-20 shooting from the field. With 15 rebounds, Schlemer completed her eighth double-double of the season. Fronting, playing behind or trying to stop her in a zone, UCSB had no answer for the 6’5’’ reigning Big West Player of the Year.
“Once she’s on the block, she just turns and she finishes,” senior guard Destini Mason said. “She’s very big. We have to make sure we have help-side and be aggressive.”
Elegado finished the evening with 30 points, six rebounds and five assists, hitting big threes when the Gauchos went into a zone defensively to try to slow down Schlemer. Her 30 points is nearly double her season average of 15.5 points per game.
Overall, while Santa Barbara is known for its defense, it simply was no match for the Mustang’s offense. Overall, Cal Poly outshot UCSB 50.0 percent to 34.3 percent and outscored the Gauchos 46-16 in the paint.
For UCSB, the loss marks the sixth straight defeat to the Mustangs, which improve to 8-7 overall and a perfect 2-0 in the Big West. The Gauchos, on the other hand, drop to 5-9 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
“You want to win no matter who you play. I don’t care if it’s Cal Poly or the no-name school from whatever,” Mitchell said. “Our kids are going to compete and it’s game number one of the Big West. That’s what we know.”
Knocking down threes in the first half, UCSB was able to keep the score close. UCSB was 6-9 from behind the arc in the opening period with Mason and senior guard Melissa Zornig both shooting 3-3 from downtown. Mason’s third three of the half brought the score within two at 36-34 with 2:31 to go, but Cal Poly finished the half on a 5-0 run, including a leaning three while on the run from Elegado at the buzzer.
However, the Gauchos went ice cold to begin the second half, going 2-14 from the field. With Cal Poly’s offense showing no signs of slowing down, Santa Barbara lost all control of the game and remains winless against the Mustangs during the Carlene Mitchell era.
“It was within striking distance,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes when kids try too hard, you shoot it short. We missed a lot of easy chippies right in the lane. It wasn’t just three pointers that we were taking. You have to compete and put the ball in the basket when you get open looks and that’s your responsibility.”
One bright spot for UCSB was the play of Mason, who tallied a new career-high for the fourth time this season with 24 points on 10-17 shooting, including 4-5 from three-point range and a team-high six rebounds. Zornig also contributed 18 points.
“I was just playing free,” Mason said. “If I had a shot, I [took] it and made sure I stayed on the attack. A few threes went down for me, so that was good, but I was just playing how I usually play.”
UCSB will regroup and return to action on the road Thursday against Long Beach State.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of January 13th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus.