Cal Poly rallied from a 12-point deficit to pull within four points of UC Irvine with 1 minute & 42 seconds remaining on Saturday, but the Anteater women’s basketball team held on down the stretch in Bren Events Center to pick up a 54-51 Big West Conference home win.
Sierra Campisano, who swished a 3 at the buzzer on the final play of the game, led the Mustangs with a 22-point performance on 9-for-17 shooting. The junior forward made 2 of her 4 looks from beyond the arc and added a 2-for-3 afternoon at the free-throw line, while also securing eight rebounds.
It was the ninth 20-point game of the season for Campisano, who came into the day third in the conference in scoring (averaging 15.8 points).
Malia Holt tied for the team-high with eight boards, and also had nine points along with four assists and two steals in a 37-minute effort. A junior 5-foot-6 guard, Holt is now averaging 5.9 rebounds over her past eight games.
The first quarter was a defensive battle, as the Mustangs set a single-quarter program record for field-goal percentage defense with UCI missing its first 14 shots, en route to an 8-5 Cal Poly lead by the end of the period.
Irvine tied the game at 11 with 8:22 to play until halftime when point guard Lauren Saiki hit a jumper, but Campisano answered right back to put the Mustangs back in front. UCI would also pull even with Cal Poly at 13-all and 16-16, but at each juncture the Anteaters were prevented from taking the lead, ultimately heading to the break down 24-21.
The Anteaters flipped the game at the start of the third quarter, opening the second half on a 10-0 run launched by a Saiki 3 on their first possession back on the floor. After starting the fourth ahead 42-36, UCI took the largest lead of the day thanks to a Jayde Cadee 3 to extend the gap to 51-39 with 4:48 remaining.
Cal Poly responded with an 8-0 run, as Kirsty Brown converted in the post, Campisano netted two straight baskets and then Holt scored off a drive to the hoop, narrowing the margin to 51-47 with 1:42 on the clock. The Mustangs then held against UCI on the defensive end, but came up with a miss on their next possession before turning the ball over after an offensive rebound.
With Cal Poly forced to foul to stop the clock, UCI tacked on three free throws late to push the lead back to 54-47 with only 20 seconds to play.
Both teams led for precisely 18:55 apiece, but Irvine (6-7 BWC; 10-17 overall), lifted by a 24-6 points-off-turnovers advantage, remained alone in sixth place in the Big West standings.
Cal Poly (4-9 BWC; 7-17 overall), which plays two of its final three regular-season games at home, remains only a half-game back of UC Riverside for eighth place in the conference standings. The Mustangs hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over UCR (4-8; 8-17) after earning a season sweep of the Highlanders.
The Mustangs return to the Central Coast to host UC Santa Barbara for the Blue-Green Rivalry at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, before hosting Senior Day as well as Poly Play Day (with free admission for kids 13-&-under) at Mott Athletics Center against CSUN at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29.
-Provided by Cal Poly