Freshman Julia Nielacna of the University of San Francisco (32) spins inside against Alicia Roufosse of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo on Nov. 18, 2018, at Cal State Monterey Bay. The Dons won 65-62. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

Freshman Julia Nielacna of the University of San Francisco (32) spins inside against Alicia Roufosse of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo on Nov. 18, 2018, at Cal State Monterey Bay. The Dons won 65-62. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)

USF Basketball: Dons women edge Cal Poly under clear skies in Seaside at Cal State Monterey Bay

SEASIDE, Calif. — University of San Francisco freshman Julia Nielacna scored just seven points in the first half on Sunday against Cal Poly. After scoring 17 two nights prior against No. 7 Stanford, it was a disappointing 20 minutes of basketball.

But, as she stood at the free throw line with six seconds left, up by just one over the Mustangs, she took a big breath, and nailed a pair of freebies. 

“I think about practice. This is normal practice. We hit a lot of free throws in practice, and again, it’s the same things — just see your shot,” Nielacna said.

While the air may have been cleaner than what Nielacna and the Dons left behind in smoke-choked San Francisco, the game was anything but. A total of 42 personal fouls were called, and Cal Poly and San Francisco shot a combined 51 free throws. In a stop-and-start game, and despite a crowd heavily tilted in the Mustangs’ favor, the Dons came away with a 65-62 win, behind 24 points from Neilacna.

Because of air quality that ranged from very unhealthy to hazardous over the last 10 days due to the Camp fire in Butte County, San Francisco moved its Sunday home game against Cal Poly nearly halfway to the San Luis Obispo campus. The Dons have been able to practice normally, though not without difficulty, over the past week.

“It was a little bit harder, breathing,” said Nielacna, a freshman from Ostrów Wielkopolski, Poland. “This air quality, we’ve never had anything like that in Poland. It’s something new for me.”

More than 100 miles from where the Dons and the Mustangs were supposed to play on Sunday, San Francisco was able to trade smoke, ash and face masks for a gentle sea breeze and clear skies outside Cal State Monterey Bay’s Kelp Bed arena.

Cal Poly, despite being that much closer to home, and not having dealt with the choking atmosphere in the Bay Area, came out disjointed, hitting just two shots in their first nine possessions, with two turnovers. The Mustangs, though, was nails at the line, hitting five of their first six. The Dons, who started on a 7-0 run, didn’t get to the line until there was just 2:10 left in the first period, and at that point, the two teams were knotted at 13-13.

“We knew this game would be tough,” Nielacna said. “We have problems with fouls, mostly in the first half. It’s really bad. We had a lot of fouls, they shot a lot of free throws.”

A three from the right corner at the buzzer by Marta Galic got San Francisco ahead 19-15, but the second quarter saw the Mustangs rip off a 13-3 run, going 4-for-9 from the floor and 5-for-8 from the free-throw line as the Dons went just 1-for-8 with four turnovers over the first eight minutes.

Cal Poly was stronger, longer, more athletic and more under-control than the Dons, getting in the faces of shooters and staying active in passing lanes. Most importantly, the Mustangs were able to neutralize Nielacna, who shot 3-of-4 in the first half, but didn’t get many clean looks.

Still, a baseline jumper by Galic at the halftime buzzer capped a 9-2 run to finish the stanza, tying things at 30-30 as the Mustangs failed to hit a field goal for the final 2:44.

Katie Nunnley, though, was tough to stop from 12 feet and in. After scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the first half, she hit three shots in the first five minutes of the third quarter, staking the Mustangs to a 39-33 lead.

Galic came up big again during a flurry of action at the end of the third, pulling down an offensive rebound and cashing it in for a lay-up, before Nia Alexander hit a lay-up of her own and then blocked Kirsty Brown on the other end. Nielacna took a hit going up for a bucket of her own, and hit both of her free throws to keep the Dons within four, down 46-42.

San Francisco went on a 7-2 run to open the fourth, with a step-back 3-pointer by Moa Lundqvist with 8:31 to go in regulation, giving San Francisco its first lead since 6:56 in the second quarter.

After scoring just seven points in the first half, Nielacna poured in 10 in the first 15:37 of the second, and continued her onslaught as the game got tighter, finishing 6-of-10 shooting and 12-of-14 at the free throw line.

After a top-of-the-arc three by Malia Holt, Nielacna fired a long two from the left wing on the other end, giving the Dons the lead back with 21.7 seconds left. The Mustangs then took their final time out.

With San Francisco up by one, Devin Stanback missed an under-the-basket lay-up, and wrestled for the rebound with Lundqvist, rolling out of bounds with 10 seconds to go with 8.9 left. As the referee awarded possession to the Dons, Neilacna let out a roar. Moments later, she would hit her pair of free throws to ice the game.Cal State Monterey BayCollege SportsJulia NielacnaUniversity of San Franciscousf donsUSF Dons women's basketballusf women’s basketball

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

After the pandemic hit, Twin Peaks Boulevard was closed to vehicle traffic, a situation lauded by open space advocates. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
New proposal to partially reopen Twin Peaks to vehicles pleases no one

Neighbors say closure brought crime into residential streets, while advocates seek more open space

A Police Credit Union branch at 2550 Irving St. in the Sunset District on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. An affordable housing project has been proposed for the site as the branch moves to a new location. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Sunset District affordable housing discussion flooded with ‘scare tactics and hysteria’

Project would provide 100 units, some of which would be designated for formerly homeless families

Members of the Sheriff’s Department command staff wore masks at a swearing-in ceremony for Assistant Sheriff Tanzanika Carter. One attendee later tested positive. 
Courtesy SFSD
Sheriff sees increase in COVID-19 cases as 3 captains test positive

Command staff among 10 infected members in past week

Rainy weather is expected in the coming week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Rainstorms, potential atmospheric river expected to drench Bay Area in coming week

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation Multiple rainstorms, cold temperatures some… Continue reading

U.S. Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s powerful reading was among the highlights of Inauguration Day. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Inauguration shines light in this never-ending shade

Here’s to renewal and resolve in 2021 and beyond

Most Read