Matadors can’t tame Tigers, lose 66-52

Emerson Muzada

After a weary three-game road trip, the Matadors’ women’s basketball team returned home Thursday night in search of their first win of the season against the Pacific Tigers, only to be disappointed yet again with a 66-52 loss.

The Matadors trailed the Tigers the entire game as they struggled offensively against the Tigers’ zone defense. The Tigers were up as much as 19 points in both halves. The Matadors were within two points of the Tigers early in the game, but the Tigers continued to pull away.

“It wasn’t really a zone, it was more of a box,” said junior guard Ashley Blake. “We didn’t attack, our aggression was our problem.”

Blake had a career-high 17 points, shooting 50 percent from the field on 6-for-12 shooting and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc. The team struggled offensively, shooting 34.5 percent on 19-of-55 shooting versus the Tigers, who shot 40.7 percent from the field on 22-of-54 shooting, led by guard Kelsey Lavender, who scored a game-high 18 points.

The Matadors’ leading scorer, junior guard Whitney Ligon, who scored a career-high 40 points the last time these two teams met in January, chipped in 10 points and forced six turnovers. Junior forward Tonicia Tademy grabbed a season-high nine rebounds.

The Matadors had 17 turnovers in the first half and the Tigers scored 16 points off those turnovers. Attempts to get the ball in the paint to junior Crystal Hahs or senior Katie Holloway were problematic and contributed to the turnovers.

“They were clogging up the paint and hassling Katie,” said head coach Staci Schulz. “They weren’t pressuring our ball handlers.”

Northridge’s slow start in the first half would haunt them in the second half as they struggled to keep up with the Tigers. Early in the first half, trailing 12-7, the Matadors were scoreless for almost five minutes until Ligon’s layup brought the Matadors within nine. After both teams traded turnovers, a timeout was called.

The Tigers’ Karen Dawkins hit a jump shot and Hahs responded with a layup, but a jumper by the Tigers’ Beckett Brennan maintained the 11-point lead with 11 minutes left in the first half.

A three-pointer by Brennan gave the Tigers a 12-point lead with seven minutes left in the first half. Three consecutive baskets by Lavender extended the Tigers’ lead to 19 points, the largest margin of the night, 32-13.

The Matadors fought back with an 8-2 run to close out the first half, cutting into the lead, but still down by 13 with a 21-34 score at halftime.

“We waited to score,” said Schulz. “We needed to get into it early.”

Hahs had seven points and Ligon had five points to lead the Matadors in the first half. Tigers forward Janae Young had 12 first-half points and Lavender had 11 points. The Tigers had 10 points in the paint and 10 second-chance points. The Matadors had a hard time crashing the boards with only 10 first half rebounds. The Tigers had 21 boards, which included eight offensive rebounds.

The Tigers held a double-digit lead the entire second half and never looked back. CSUN freshman Analee Viena-Lota opened the second half with a jumper on an assist from Tademy. After a turnover by the Tigers, Viena-Lota missed a jumper at the other end.

With less than 15 minutes left in the game, Lavender buried a three-pointer. Down by 16 points, 27-43, Ligon answered with her own three-pointer, making it a 13-point ball game. On the next possession, Lavender drove to the hole and was fouled by Holloway.

Lavender was perfect from the free-throw line, shooting 6-of-6 for the game. The Tigers as a whole shot 90 percent from the charity stripe, 18-for-20.

With less than seven minutes left in the game, the Tigers matched their largest margin, up by 19 points after an easy layup by center Emma Head.

Blake’s gallant effort draining three three-pointers in the final two minutes of play wasn’t enough. Both teams had 25 turnovers, but the Tigers held on, handing the Matadors their 19th consecutive loss.

“We have to keep coming, night in and night out, playing hard,” said Blake. “We can’t come out playing slow.”

The Matadors hosted UC Davis on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Matadome. Results were not available at press time.