Defense was the key factor that has placed the CSUN women’s basketball team in a 2-0 start to its season. The Matadors round out their four-game road trip with games against Oregon State (2-0) tonight and Washington (1-1) Saturday.
Though the Matadors have played two games this season, stats show their effectiveness so far on the defensive end. The team has contained their opponents to 28.4 percent shooting and 32 steals. Center Jasmine Erving and guard Janae Sharpe lead the team with eight steals apiece.
“From the beginning, we talked about that being the key for us this year, especially compared to last year,” CSUN head coach Jason Flowers said. “It’s good for the kids to see their focus on the defensive end pay dividends as far as winning basketball games. I think the steals represented their aggressiveness that they have on the defensive end.”
CSUN, which only allowed Loyola Marymount to score 16 points in the paint, didn’t just protect the inside. The Matadors also carried their defense out to the perimeter, preventing LMU from making a single shot from long range.
“We wanted to limit their shooters. We felt that they had a couple of kids who can really shoot it from the three,” Flowers said. “And part of our defense is contesting everything, so I think it became a situation where we did a pretty good job on those shooters.”
An area that Flowers’ team needs to make adjustments in is rebounding. CSUN allowed 23 offensive rebounds in its season opener against San Francisco and trails its opponents overall 102-89.
“The more shots they miss, the more opportunities for offensive rebounds,” Flowers said. “Even with that being said, we still need to do a much better job at boxing out and putting a body on people before we go for the basketball.”
The Matadors’ defense will be tested when they play Oregon State. The Beavers have blown out both of their opponents, defeating Western Oregon 96-32 and Montana State 83-53.
“Just like any other game, we just need to go out and just focus on what we do best,” Flowers said. “Different teams challenge you in different ways. They shoot a really high percentage. They do a good job at taking quality shots. It’s going to be a test to how well we can be disciplined within what we do and go out and execute our game plan.”
Oregon State forward Earlysia Marchbanks leads her team in scoring, shooting 53.8 percent in the first two games. As a team, the Beavers shot 53.3 from the field, with 39 points coming from behind the arc.
After their game with Oregon State, CSUN heads farther north to play Washington. Under first-year head coach Kevin McGuff, the Huskies are looking for their second win this season. This meeting will be only the second in the history of both universities.
“They’re under a first-year head coach whose had a tremendous success rate at his previous job, and obviously he’s trying to change things around much like what we’re trying to do with our program,” Flowers said. “They have a big post presence on their team, and so our post defense will be challenged.”
The Huskies’ first lost was a close one, losing 69-68 to UC Davis in the final seconds. Washington tried looking for the game-winning shot after letting the Aggies into the paint for the eventual game-ending layup.