Jan 3, 2013 4:13 PM by Andrew Masuda

Cal Poly women tip off Big West title defense on the road tonight

The two-time defending Big West regular season champion Cal Poly women's basketball team and the Conference Tournament champion UC Santa Barbara Gauchos hit the road to open Big West play on Thursday.

The Cal Poly women start conference play at Long Beach State. Both squads went 6-5 during the preseason. The Mustangs will try to avenge a 51-48 loss in the Big West Conference semifinals that ended their campaign last year.

Cal Poly is coming off an 84-71 victory over Loyola Marymount on December 20. Ariana Elegado leads the Mustangs with 13.5 points per game, while Kayla Griffin and Brittany Woodard average 9.6 points. Righetti High graduate Molly Schlemer has stepped up in her junior season with 8.7 points and 5 rebounds per contest.

The 49ers are 5-2 at home this season. Alex Sanchez leads the team with 12.4 points per game, while Bianka Balthazar adds 9 points. Long Beach State has been off since December 21. Among the 49ers' victories this season is a 71-62 home victory over Pac-12 Washington.

UCSB plays at UC Irvine. Both teams went 4-8 in the preseason. The Gauchos dropped their last three games of the preseason. UCSB is in search of its 14th regular season crown in the last 17 years. UCSB was picked third in the Preseason Coaches Poll. Senior Sweets Underwood leads the Gauchos with 11.4 points and 9 rebounds per game. She ranks second in the conference with a 51.9 field goal percentage.

UC Irvine is 0-4 at home this season. The Anteaters, who were picked 9th in this year's preseason coaches poll, won both regular season meetings with UCSB last season, but the Gauchos knocked off UCI in the first round of the Big West Tournament.

Both games start at 7pm.



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