The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Matadors’ defense fails to stop Gauchos’ offense in 21st straight loss

Matadors guard Erica Adams scores the tough contested layup off a defensive stop to cut the lead to 33-31 with under two minutes left in the first half at the Premier Credit Union Area on Jan. 10 in Northridge, Calif.

In another one-possession game with less than a minute left in the fourth, CSUN failed to close the game out with a win, as the Matadors could not get the rebound after a missed shot from UC Santa Barbara to have a chance to tie the game. Six clutch Gaucho free throws would seal the deal for a 64-60 victory over the Matadors.

After losing by a combined 12 points in three of their last four games against the top teams in their conference, the Matadors showed the ability to compete with any team in the Big West. But despite the close games, CSUN (2-21, 0-13 Big West) still needs more team chemistry and experience against the top-ranked teams, including UCSB (15-8, 9-4 Big West.)

“I think our last couple of games, we competed against excellent teams, but we can’t keep losing close games,” said head coach Carlene Mitchell. “We just have to continue to make sure that our team believes, and it’s hard for them to win because it’s been so long since our last win.”

The Gauchos opened the game with a 6-0 lead, looking like they would run away with the game, but CSUN responded with a 9-2 run after forward Laney Amundsen knocked down a triple and two free throws. Forward Talo Li-Uperesa scored a fast break layup off a steal from Amundsen to give CSUN a 9-8 lead.

The score would be tied 16-16 after a steal by Li-Uperesa, where she assisted forward Olivia Smith in scoring a fast break layup to even the game. But UCSB responded with their own 8-0 run, knocking down two straight triples and a second chance bucket to extend the lead to 24-16. The second quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams trading baskets, but even with that, it still felt like the Gauchos were in control because of their second-chance points and rebounding.

The Matadors would keep the game close late in the second quarter, with guard Kaitlyn Elsholz and Li-Uperesa knocking down layups back-to-back to bring the Matadors back 33-31. UCSB led by as much as nine points in the second quarter, but CSUN shrank the deficit to two, with Elsholz leading the way with 21 points and four rebounds.

“We’re improving as a team; we have a really short bench right now,” Elholz said. “Everybody is showing up and competing to try and win, regardless of our situation. Seeing everyone’s drive and competitiveness, it doesn’t matter who’s in front of us. We will bring the same thing every time.”

Opening the third quarter, Elsholz scored the first basket to tie the game 35-35 and would continue her dominance by knocking down a 3-pointer and fast break layup off a Matadors steal to take a 40-36 lead. This particular run looked like CSUN would seize control of the game with the momentum they gained from their points off turnovers. But after guard Rachel Harvey knocked down a free throw to give CSUN a 41-40 lead, the Matadors went cold, remaining scoreless for the last four minutes of the third quarter.

The Gauchos took advantage of the Matadors’ cold shooting by going on a 14-1 extended run. UCSB forward Alexis Whitfield knocked down two consecutive layups, and guard Jessica Grant made a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to give UCSB the 47-41 lead to end the third. Grant knocked down two consecutive 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter, extending the lead to 53-43.

Down by 10, CSUN outscored the Gauchos 13-5 in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 58-56, with Elsholz and guard Erica Adams doing their best to keep the game close. Li-Uperesa would refuse to let CSUN go down without a fight, scoring a clutch layup to draw the Matadors closer at 60-58, but a clutch rebound by center Laurel Rockwood after a missed 3-pointer for UCSB would seal the deal, as the Gauchos were able to get a second-chance opportunity with their size advantage. The Gauchos would close it out with two clutch free throws to steal the close game on the road.

CSUN struggled to defend the 3-point line as they have all season long, allowing eight 3-pointers in the game and struggling to shoot with just three 3-pointers themselves, which cost them a close victory. The final seconds also showed how much CSUN struggled to get rebounds as they were out-rebounded again 42-35, showcasing their weakness in the paint.

“Different people are showing up every night,” said Mitchell. “That gives us a chance every night against any team in the conference, but we need to stay as a group collectively and continue to improve every night.”

CSUN will stay home to face Cal State Bakersfield (7-15, 4-9 Big West) on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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