The Cal State Northridge women’s basketball team cut an 11-point deficit to three in a 30-second span, but the UC Riverside Highlanders got huge free throws from Kemie Nkele and Seyram Gbwonyo in the closing seconds to edge out the Matadors 65-58 at the Matadome on Feb. 16
“It was a frustrating loss,” said junior Jamie McCaa. “But it was nice to see us fight back.”
McCaa started the rally by making a layup with 49 seconds remaining in the game. Nkele then made one of two free throws and McCaa followed with jumper, cutting the deficit to eight. Katie Holloway then stole the inbounds pass and gave it up to McCaa, who hit three at the left corner, cutting the deficit to five.
CSUN quickly fouled Tainoisouti Lott, who missed two free throws. Holloway grabbed the rebound, and later received the ball and attempted the three, which came up short, but junior LaJoyce King grabbed the rebound and called a timeout. Following the timeout, McCaa inbounded the ball to Cassandra Markovich, who made a quick lay-up inside with 21 seconds to cut the deficit to 61-58.
CSUN then fouled Nkele, who hit both free throws. The Matadors, however, had another chance to reduce the deficit again, but McCaa was called for a carry-over violation with 16 seconds left. CSUN was forced to foul Gbewonyo, who hit both free throws to provide the final margin of victory.
CSUN started with a small lineup, with the 5-9 King starting at power forward and 5-7 McCaa, 5-8 Megan Ching, and 5-5 Ashley Blake playing the guard spots and 6-3 Jazelle Burries starting at center.
Both teams shot over 45 percent in the first half, but both teams struggled to take care of the ball, as CSUN and Riverside combined to turn the ball over 23 times, with CSUN turning the ball over 11 times and Riverside turned it over 12 times.
Still, Riverside led throughout most of the first half and a running layup by Vanessa Campillo with time expiring sent Riverside into the break leading 32-26.
Riverside started the second half on a 6-2 run to lead 41-28. CSUN countered with a 17-9 run to cut the deficit to 50-45 on a Heather Cushing layup with just over five minutes to go, but Riverside refused to buckle under the pressure, as the Highlanders countered with a 10-4 run to build its lead to 60-49 with a minute left.
After the close loss, the Matadors used a balance scoring attack to hold off Cal State Fullerton 78-69 Feb. 18 at the Matadome.
“It feels amazing to get a win,” McCaa said. “We end our seven-game losing streak and when you lose it is so frustrating.”
CSUN was led by McCaa’s 18 points on 6-11 shooting in her 34 minutes.
The first half started off quickly, with the Titans getting on the board five seconds into the game on a Toni Thomas jumper. It only took the Matadors 45 seconds to score their two points thanks to junior Jazelle Burries.
The first five minutes of the half saw both teams alternating scoring, with the Titans holding the largest advantage of three off an Andrea Adams three-pointer.
With 13 minutes remaining in the first half, Cal State Fullerton built the lead to six off two free-throws by India McDaniel.
Instead of calling a timeout, head coach Staci Schulz let the team play and the team responded with a 6-0 run to tie the game off two threes by McCaa and Ching, tying the game at 15.
For the next six minutes, both teams went back and forth with neither one able to gain a big lead. With six minutes remaining in the first half, the Matadors finally built some momentum.
With the lead at two, junior Kristina Fuleki and senior Cassandra Markovich came off the bench and sparked the Matadors. Fuleki hit a jumper to build the lead to 31-27. Then Markovich scored five points with less than a minute in the first half and gave CSUN a 41-36 lead at the half.
Both teams shot well in the first half, CSUN at 47 percent and Cal State Fullerton shot 40 percent. The Matadors also shot an impressive 45 percent from behind the arc and 75 percent from the line.
With less than a minute into the second half, CSUN built its lead to eight, off a Burries layup.
The Titans, however, would not give up. Cal State Fullerton tied the game with a little over 12 minutes off an India McDaniel layup and took the lead off two McDaniel free throws.
CSUN, however, did not relinquish the lead for long. Fuleki hit two free throws to tie the game and McCaa hit a jumper to take the lead back at 56-54 with less than 10 minutes to play.
The last ten minutes of the game was all Matadors as they built their lead to over double digits. CSUN’s biggest lead was 12, off two McCaa’s free throws with under a minute left.
For the game, the Matadors shot 46 percent from the field, including 43 percent from beyond the arc. CSUN’s defense was also impressive, holding the Titans to 30 percent shooting in the second half and 35 percent for the game. The Matadors also forced 20 Titan turnovers.
“We did a lot of practice on setting good screens,” said assistant coach Carla Houser. “Then we worked the ball into the post well which opened up the outside shots.”
CSUN had four players score in double figures. As mentioned, McCaa led the team with 18. Burries contributed with 16 while Holloway and Markovich each poured in 10.
Next up for the Matadors will be at Long Beach State on Feb. 23 and CSUN’s home finale will be Feb. 25 against Pacific as part of a double-header with the men’s basketball team.
Justin Satzman and Ivan Yeo can be reached at email@example.com