March 9, 2012
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The seventh-seeded Long Beach State women's basketball team used a total team effort to upset No. 1 seed Cal Poly, 51-48, in the Big West Tournament semifinals Friday afternoon at the Honda Center.
"It was an incredible game and atmosphere," third-year head coach Jody Wynnsaid. "I am extremely proud of our collective defensive effort. Our offense in the second half started with our defense."
The 49ers, who were picked to finish last in the conference's preseason poll, will play for the Big West title on Saturday at 2 p.m.
LBSU will be making its first appearance in the finals since 2001 and has a chance to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992.
Long Beach State (14-17) put together another stellar second half, shooting 50 percent from the field and going 6-for-11 from 3-point range. The 49ers finished the game at 34 percent, while holding the Mustangs to 28 percent.
Sophomore Hallie Meneses led the way with 16 points, going 6-of-9 from the floor with three 3-pointers. Freshman Devin Hudson registered her second double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while freshman Lauren Spargochipped in eight points.
It was a slow start to the game for both teams offensively as Cal Poly held a 4-2 advantage at the first media timeout at the 14:11 mark. Hudson had a layup to put the 49ers on top early before the Mustangs made a pair of free throws and hit their first field goal with 15:10 remaining. LBSU was 1-for-10 and Cal Poly was 1-for-6 from the floor in the opening six minutes.
Cal Poly (17-14) proceeded to go on a 7-0 run after the short break to pull ahead 14-6, but Meneses answered by ending a six-minute scoring drought for the 49ers with an and-one layup. Long Beach State then closed the gap to 14-10 on a Moorer free throw with 4:45 remaining, but the Mustangs would rebuild their lead to nine. Meneses drained a 3-pointer with 44 seconds on the clock to make it 19-13 at intermission.
Although Long Beach State shot 18.5 percent in the first half, its solid defense kept it in the game as Cal Poly made just 20.8 percent of its attempts. Hudson led the 49ers with six points and four rebounds in eight minutes of action.
After trading baskets to start the second period, Meneses hit a pair of 3-pointers to spark a 9-4 run that brought LBSU within three (27-24) at the 14:28 mark. Cal Poly responded with six unanswered points, opening up a 34-24 advantage, but Long Beach State chipped away again, cutting the deficit to 34-33 following a Spargo jumper. The 49ers went on to tie it up at 37-37 on a driving layup by Chantel Dooleywith 8:51 remaining.
LBSU continued on an 8-2 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Spargo, to go on top, 45-39, with 5:39 to play. The Mustangs reclaimed the lead at 46-45, but the 49ers pulled back ahead on a Moorer jumper. After Cal Poly's Kristina Santiago missed a pair of free throws, Meneses' jumper gave Long Beach State a 49-46 advantage with 30 seconds left.
The Mustangs had the ball and called a timeout with 16.9 seconds on the clock. The inbounds pass went to Ashlee Burns, who was fouled in the act of shooting. She missesd both of her free throws, but Santiago got the put back with 12 seconds remaining. With LBSU up, 49-48, the Mustangs were forced to foul and Dooley sank a pair of clutch free throws for the 51-48 win.
Santiago, who was recently named the Big West Player of the Year, scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Cal Poly.
Long Beach State will face either No. 5 seed Pacific or No. 6 seed UC Santa Barbara in the Big West Tournament championship game on Saturday, March 10, at 2 p.m. The winner earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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