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 come up empty as CSUN’s rally falls short versus Hawaii

Kaitlyn Elsholz, 22, guard for CSUN Women’s basketball team, dribbling between two Hawaii Rainbow Wahine players during their match at the Premier America Credit Union Arena on Thursday, March 7, 2024, in Northridge, Calif.

The Matadors, who broke their 26-game losing streak on the road against UC San Diego (12-19, 8-12 Big West) in a nail-biting overtime win last week, hosted their final regular season game Thursday night. It was a remarkable night for their fans, who witnessed the Matadors’ unwavering resilience against the No.1 team in the conference, keeping the game within reach.

Hawaii (20-9, 17-3 Big West) visited CSUN (3-27, 1-19 Big West) Thursday night, determined to maintain their No. 1 spot in the Big West. The Rainbow Warriors faced an uphill battle, falling behind early in the game due to sloppy turnovers. However, the game changers, Lily Wahinekapu and MeiLani McBee, rose to the occasion. McBee scored five crucial three-pointers, and Wahnikepau’s clutch fadeaway jumper to secure the win.

The Rainbow Warriors outscored CSUN 27-11 to end the first half and take the 36-29 lead into halftime. They held onto this lead, winning the nail-biting game 65-62.

CSUN head coach Carlene Mitchell gave credit to her players for staying locked in during the season and never giving up despite their struggle to win games all year.

“I was happy to see our players compete and stay locked in despite our record,” Mitchell said. “Many teams would have given up in this situation, but I give a lot of credit to my coaching staff for having our players ready to go in every game.”

Hawaii led the Matadors by 11, shooting more than 35 percent from three for much of the first half as the Matadors watched MeiLani McBee heat up and go 5-9 from three to stretch the lead in the second quarter. The shooting was a problem for the Matadors in the first half, but they held the Rainbow Warriors to 3-13 from downtown in the second to pick up steam.

The Matadors found a resurgence in the third quarter, mainly due to a strong performance by Talo Li-Uperesa. CSUN showed its tenacity with significant contributions from Kayanna Spriggs and Kaitlyn Elsholz. In the third quarter, the Matadors reduced the lead to 44-38, thanks to a block from Li-Uperesa and a steal from Rachel Harvey that set up a three-pointer by Elsholz.

Li-Uperesa scored five straight points for the Matadors to cut the lead to 49-43. With 26 seconds left in the third, Harvey ended the quarter with a jumper, leaving CSUN trailing 49-45. Li-Uperesa continued her scoring and presence on defense, striking first in the fourth quarter to pull the Matadors within two.

CSUN turned the ball over on the next play and gave up two crucial 3-pointers by McBee, which extended Hawaii’s lead to 57-47. But, with eight minutes left in the game, CSUN’s defense came up huge. The Matadors held Hawaii scoreless for more than four minutes. Spriggs and Adams scored on back-to-back possessions to bring the score within three points.

Down the stretch with less than five minutes left, Adams scored three straight baskets for the Matadors, including a jumper from the left corner to get them within one point. However, Adams could not deliver in the clutch to tie the game, missing a tough contested jumper, resulting in Hawaii taking the win with two free throws.

In the final game of the season, the Matadors made a tribute video to their fellow seniors, Olivia Smith and Rochelle Fourie, who will graduate this season.

“You coach to see them continue to grow as people,” Mitchell said. “To see someone like Olivia in my first year here and then now to see her growth as a young woman is something that makes me very proud.”

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