Women’s basketball falls short of a 16-point comeback

Matadors guard Jordyn Jackson, 1, brings the ball up and regulates the offense as the Anteaters bring a half-court press on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in the Premiere America Credit Union in Northridge, Calif.

Maxwell Clark, Contributor

Amid palpable tension from the crowd, the Matadors rallied from down 16 against the Anteaters, but fell short by two points in the 54-52 loss.

The Matadors women’s basketball team (4-17, 3-8 Big West Conference) looked to snap a seven-game losing streak against UC Irvine (16-4, 8-1 Big West Conference) on Saturday at the Premier America Credit Union Arena. CSUN ended up falling just short of a 16-point comeback against the Anteaters, the No. 1 ranked team in the Big West conference.

The game got off to a slow start for the Matadors, as they let UCI get out to a 16-7 lead towards the end of the first quarter. CSUN racked up 10 points in the first frame, eight of which were scored by guard Jordyn Jackson, a graduate student who eclipsed 1,000 career points in one of her latest games for the Matadors. Jackson led the team on both ends with 23 points and four steals on the day.

“She kind of brings that element and that spark,” head coach Carlene Mitchell said about Jackson. “Everyone kind of steps up and follows her lead on the defensive and offensive end.”

The Matadors’ Achilles’ heel in the game was getting the Anteaters to the free-throw line. Irvine went 17 for 18 at the line before CSUN even got to attempt a free throw late in the third quarter. Mitchell understands that you can’t win games when the free-throw attempts are so uneven.

“I always try to tell our players to try and not let the fouls be factored in,” Mitchell said. “But there is such a discrepancy game, after game, after game.”

In a game decided by just two points, the difference in free throws is what many will be looking at when trying to find out where the Matadors went wrong. UCI went 20-for-24 at the line while the Matadors went 4-for-6.

CSUN found themselves down 14 points at halftime, but the crowd was still very much in the game. The fans’ cheers were loud all day, even when the Matadors found themselves down by as much as 16. Whenever the Anteaters went to the free-throw line, the arena became filled with loud yelling as the fans stomped their feet and waved their balloons, doing whatever they could to distract the Anteaters.

Forward Tess Amundsen had her lowest scoring output of the season, only racking up four points for the game. Amundsen, who has been shooting 45.2% from beyond the arc this season, missed both her 3-point attempts and had five turnovers to go with her low scoring on the day. She had zero points until the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, where she made a couple of crucial buckets to keep the team in the game.

CSUN outscored and outhustled UCI in the fourth quarter, forcing 10 turnovers, which led to several easy chances at the rim. Jackson scored 10 of her 23 points and had three of her four steals in the fourth.

“I know that we are all capable of scoring the ball but I definitely do feel like I can help us a lot by knocking down shots or getting someone else open,” Jackson said.

The Matadors found themselves down by three with just under a minute left to play in the game. A huge steal and score by guard Anaiyah Tu’ua brought the team within one point of UCI. Irvine called a timeout immediately after. The tension in the arena could be cut with a butter knife as the stadium echoed Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.” The crowd got extremely loud for the Anteaters’ next possession and continued waving their noodle balloons around.

With just ten seconds to play, the Matadors forced a bad shot from UCI guard Hunter Hernandez, who corralled her own rebound and called a timeout. This forced CSUN to have to foul on the inbound. Irvine’s Nevaeh Parkinson went to the line, the floor vibrating from the crowd’s stomps. Parkinson missed the first free throw and hit the second, which put the Anteaters back up by two.

The Matadors advanced the ball with seven seconds left and inbounded it to Amundsen. The 6-foot-1 forward got trapped on the left wing and with time expiring, had to throw up a prayer, which fell way short. The Matadors lost the game and extended their losing streak to eight.

“We had a chance at beating the No. 1 team in the conference today,” Mitchell said. “That’s with digging ourselves a 16-point hole and a big free-throw discrepancy.”

Proud of the team’s comeback but disappointed with the result, Jackson explained the bitterness of the loss.

“It’s really frustrating because I feel like we could’ve had that game,” Jackson said. “I’m proud that we were able to come back and how we played together to get stops because we needed that.”

Jackson felt that the team’s defensive effort in the second half, in which they limited the Anteaters to 17 points, can carry over into their next game. The Matadors will play at UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, Feb. 4 and look to avenge their 25-point loss to the Gauchos on Jan. 19.