The CSUN Matadors (11-5, 1-1) bounced back from their opening conference game defeat with a home win 53-46 against the University of Hawai’i (8-7, 0-2) Saturday night, despite a poor first half and a change in starting lineup.
CSUN looked sleepy in the first few minutes against Hawai’i — throwing away passes on offensive plays and giving away too many rebounds while on defense.
“We missed a ton of layups, we missed a ton of open shots,” CSUN head coach Jason Flowers said. “The bottom line at the end of the day is you have to put the ball in the basket.”
CSUN fell behind in the beginning of the first half and the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine managed a six-point run against the reigning Big West Conference champs before being countered.
Senior guard Ashlee Guay put up the first point for the Matadors around 14 minutes. A few minutes later, capable ball handling from senior guard Janae Sharpe and a 3-pointer from Cinnamon Lister, brought the Matadors back from a slow start.
For the remainder of the half the Matadors battled for the lead but at halftime CSUN managed to acquire a few points over Hawai’i.
By the second half CSUN figured out that Hawai’i couldn’t land anything from outside the arc and CSUN kept their larger players posted in the key on defense to counter their opponent’s offense.
“The first half I struggled with the defensive assignment,” CSUN freshman center Tessa Boegni said. “In the second half I really tried to focus on defense and getting in front of them.”
Locking down the key with 6-foot-2-inch Boegni shutdown the Wahine’ ability to drive to the basket and helped CSUN hold their lead until games end.
“We did an OK job playing team defense this game, but I think offensively we should of finished our shots more,” senior guard Cinnamon Lister said.
The victory over Hawai’i puts the Matadors 11-5 overall for the season and 1-1 in Big West Conference play.
The win saw a change in the usual starters for the Matadors which head coach Flowers attributed to players not performing to expectations.
“I feel that there has been a sense of complacency with this group,” Flowers said. “I think there has been a sense of resting on what was accomplished last year.”
Flowers left three of his conference champions on the bench and put promising freshman in their place at the tip-off.
Among the new starters were freshman forward Caroline Gilling, guard Katelin King and center Boegnithat who were utilized throughout the 2014-2015 season and well rotated in regular games.
“It was exciting having (my) first career start in college,” said Boegni, who played 30 minutes for the Matadors and raked in nine rebounds against the Rainbow Wahine.
The Matadors will face the University of Santa Barbara Gauchos Jan. 15 at the Matadome.
The Gauchos have 0-14 record for the season.