Matadors women’s basketball battles in opening homestand

CSUN forward Tess Amundsen, 15, goes up for a rebound against defenders from the Santa Clara University Broncos on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at the Premier America Credit Union Arena in Northridge, Calif.

Benjamin Miller, Reporter

CSUN women’s basketball was unable to squeeze out a non-exhibition win during their four-game homestand, leaving them 0-6 to start the season.

The Matadors faced the Santa Clara University Broncos for their first home game of the season in a packed Premier America Credit Union Arena on Nov. 17. The clash ended with a score of 66-62 in what was a competitive game throughout the night, but fouls and turnovers ultimately cost the Matadors the win in the final minutes of the game.

They then went on to face San Jose State University on Nov. 19, ending the defensive battle in a similar fashion with a 48-42 loss.

Following an exhibition match against Antelope Valley, the Matadors returned to competitive action Dec. 1 to host the University of San Francisco, ultimately falling 49-72.

The Matadors have yet to earn a conference or non-conference win so far this season. However, the team played far more competitively at home than they did on the road, leaving a silver lining for the future.

Although the Matadors did not come away with a victory at home, sophomore Michelle Duchemin had a breakthrough performance against the Broncos, earning her first career double-double with 23 points and 15 boards, both career highs. This was a record-setting night for Duchemin, as she had her best performance to date. She went 8-15 from the field and 3-4 from 3-point range, adding two assists in 35 minutes of play.

“I know that I got to step up this season,” Duchemin said. “Mentally, I got to be locked in all the time on all cylinders. Rebounds, defense and scoring comes with that as well, but honestly [it’s] just knowing my team has my back.”

This came on a night when the team was in need of a scoring option, as Tess Amundsen was struggling to find the basket. She shot 2-11 before fouling out with the team down four and less than five minutes to go.

The Matadors were ready for the Broncos from the tipoff. They won the jump ball and streaked to a 5-0 lead, but Santa Clara stormed back, ending the quarter in front with a score of 22-19. CSUN owned the second quarter, holding Santa Clara to nine points and taking a two-point lead at the half.

Through halftime the teams had combined for 25 turnovers and 21 personal fouls — many of which were offensive fouls, contributing to the five athletes who eventually fouled out by the end of the game.

The Matadors started the third quarter with great energy, habitually exploiting the Broncos’ zone defense to find open shots. CSUN was unable to hold on to this lead for long, as the Matadors’ offensive fouls led to too many empty possessions while giving Santa Clara the chance to score extra points off turnovers.

Santa Clara widened the gap in the third quarter, scoring 19 points to CSUN’s 12, and the Matadors were never able to climb back. CSUN ended the night with a total of 26 turnovers, which led to 21 Broncos’ points.

“Turnovers continue to be a huge issue and a concern of mine,” CSUN head coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We have an experienced team and we are basically playing four guards most of the time. So when I go back and look at the film, a lot of that is illegal screens and travels by our bigs trying to do a little too much.”

“Again, that starts with me, because that is a discipline element we will have to fix,” Mitchell continued. “Another thing, we have not had a lot of practice time. We have been on the road a lot, so just to fix those things, it takes time and repetition.”

In a game characterized by many mistakes on both ends, the Matadors did one thing right — they dominated the boards, grabbing 42 rebounds to Santa Clara’s 29. Had it not been for the 20 second-chance points that CSUN scored, the game would not have been as close.

The Matadors had multiple chances to make a run with less than five minutes to go, but were never able to string plays together and take back the lead.

The matchup against the San Jose State Spartans was not much different for the Matadors, although they did employ new tactics on the court.

CSUN sprung out to an 8-1 lead in the first three minutes of the game, by way of five straight points from Duchemin. Up seven, the Matadors decided to switch from a matchup defense to a zone, which allowed the Spartans to convert back-to-back open corner 3-pointers and eventually tie the game.

The Matadors then went on a short run to end the quarter ahead 15-9. The Matadors looked fresh out the gate, never trailing in the entire first quarter.

CSUN switched between a matchup and zone defense throughout the second quarter, but defense was not the problem. The Matadors held the Spartans to 11 points, but scored only six themselves during those 10 minutes. By halftime the score was 21-20, with San Jose State trailing by only one point.

The first half was a tale of two quarters – the first exemplified by explosive teamwork and the second by lethargic play. In this game, much like the last, CSUN controlled the rebounds. They outworked the Spartans to grab 25 boards to their 10 in the first half. This time around, the Matadors also led in turnovers halfway through the game, by a margin of 10.

The Spartans took the lead for the first time at the beginning of the third quarter, prompting Mitchell to employ a five-in/five-out strategy. Bringing in the bench as its own unit provided some life for the Matadors as they took back the lead, 26-25, with seven minutes left in the third quarter.

The team’s hot streak did not last for long, as two consecutive turnovers led to five fast break points for the Spartans. By the end of the quarter, CSUN was down four.

The Spartans jumped out to a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Matadors kept their composure and never faltered. CSUN trailed 45-38 with two minutes left in the game when Duchemin dribbled down the left side of the court and scored an up-and-under layup to bring the game within five with one minute to go.

On the inbound, Anaiyah Tu’ua stripped the opposing team’s point guard and scored her first basket of the night, leaving the Matadors with 52 seconds to get a stop and tie the game.

This effort was not enough to turn the tide in the Matadors favor. Crunchtime free throws from San Jose State pushed the lead to six, ending the game with a score of 48-42 in another Matadors loss.

The Matadors struggled all night scoring the ball, ending two of their quarters with less than 10 points. CSUN made only four 3-point field goals in the game out of 14 attempts, compared to San Jose State’s 8-29 shooting from 3-point range.

The Matadors turned the ball over 27 times in this game to the Spartans’ 17. The offense was not all bad in this defensive game, considering that CSUN only lost by six points, but they know that they will have to string together four solid quarters to win the game.

“The first and the fourth [quarter production], I think it has to be throughout the whole game. But it starts with us on our off days and practice days,” CSUN guard Jordyn Jackson said. “We really need to be aggressive against each other. That way when we get in game time, that should be easy for us.”

The Matadors now head out on a two-game road trip, beginning with a matchup against the University of San Diego on Tuesday, Dec. 6.