The CSUN Matador women’s basketball team faced a tall order Monday night as its opponent, “Love and Basketball,” an Amateur Athletic Union team named after the 2000 movie composed of former collegiate standouts (many of whom played at USC), featuring seven players standing over six feet tall.
CSUN was ultimately overwhelmed as the Matadors closed out their exhibition schedule with an 82-74 loss to “Love and Basketball.”
“When some of these ex-great players came out and started shooting like they were shooting in their driveway, it put a little fear into us and we kind of froze,” said head coach Staci Schulz.
Matador junior Jamie McCaa paced CSUN with 19 points, LaJoyce King scored 18 points and Katie Holloway pulled down 11 rebounds, but “Love and Basketball” had four players in double figures, with Jessica Cheeks 23 points leading the way. Natalie Nakase scored 11 and Kim Gipson and Denise Woods scored 10.
“We came out scared,” McCaa said. “We didn’t like the way we came out the first five minutes of each half. We came out slow, like a deer in headlights.”
“Love and Basketball” posed trouble for CSUN right from the opening tip. Transition three-pointers by Cheeks and Nakase and an inside layup by Denise Woods turned a 2-2 tie into a 10-2 hole. Not even a quick timeout by CSUN could slow the momentum, as “Love and Basketball” scored eight more points to build an 18-2 lead.
Matador junior Megan Ching hit a 20-footer to stop the bleeding and McCaa hit a transition layup to cut into the lead, but Tonie Noise responded with a basket and a steal to give “Love and Basketball” an 18-point lead, its biggest of the half.
CSUN eventually got back in the game. Holloway started things when she rebounded a McCaa miss, scoring inside.
“Love and Basketball” brought the lead back to 17, but CSUN continued to push. Trailing 33-21, MaCaa hit a three-pointer to cut the lead into single digits, then Danielle Rainey responded with a three of her own, but free throws by McCaa, Ashley Blake and King cut the deficit to six.
Rainey answered back with another three, junior Jazelle Burries responded with a layup. After a transition bucket, McCaa hit a jumper with 20 seconds left and CSUN trailed at the half 41-34.
“We just have to learn how to come out strong,” King said.
Burries hit a 20-footer to start the second half to cut the deficit to five, but that was the closest CSUN got as, “Love and Basketball” went on an 20-4 run to take a commanding 61-40 lead.
CSUN made several runs, though the AAU squad refused to give ground. However, the Matadors did get the lead down to nine points, as McCaa hit a layup and a King a free throw, with 14 seconds, reduced it to eight points.
CSUN pushed forward, making a shot. King then stole the ensuing inbound pass and kicked the ball out to Blake at the left corner. Blake’s three point attempt was off, and Nakase secured the loose ball to snuff out any hopes of a CSUN comeback.
“Our minds got in the way a little bit,” Schulz said. “There’s no way the game should’ve went the way it did at all.”
“Love and Basketball” shot 46 percent from the field, but despite its height advantage, got out-rebounded 45-38.
“You just have to realize that they are taller and adjust to that,” said senior Heather Cushing.
CSUN now prepares for its season opener against the Brigham Young University Cougars Nov. 19th at noon at the Matadome.
BYU, whose coach is Jeff Judkins, placed third in the Mountain West Conference in 2005, with an overall record of 19-11, 9-5 in conference play, earning the Cougars a trip to the women’s NIT tournament. The Cougars will be without leading scorer Julie Sullivan, who graduated. However, BYU returns 6-foot-2 senior forward Ambrosia Anderson, who averaged 10.4 points per game last season.
Schulz, however, believes the team will need to improve its intensity.
“We need to pull together,” Schulz said. “We need to work on handling the pressure a little bit more, having a scorer’s mentality and taking it to the other team more.”
Ivan Yeo can be reached at email@example.com.