The Cal State Northridge women’s basketball skidded into the Big West Tournament with two losses, one to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 80-67 at Mott Gymnasium March 2, then to UC Santa Barbara 85-63 at the Thunderdome March 4.
Against Cal Poly, the Matadors led 11-8 until Cal Poly went on a 13-1 run to lead 21-12. CSUN didn’t back down as it closed out the first half on a 7-1 run, cutting the deficit to 34-29 at the break.
The Matadors started the second half by making its first four shots as the team finally caught the Mustangs at 38, three minutes into the half. Cal Poly however, quickly countered with a 15-4 run to lead 53-42.
The Matadors made one last effort to stay in the ball game, as it scored ten in a row to cut the deficit to one. CSUN continued to keep Cal Poly within sight until the Mustangs scored 12 in a row, turning a slim 64-62 lead into a comfortable 76-62 advantage. CSUN would not threaten again the rest of the night.
“It’s a matchup thing,” said CSUN head coach Staci Schulz. “(Cal Poly) quick in every position. We have size, but it was the quickness at each position that stopped us from getting the ball to our size.”
Both teams had four players in double figures. Senior Cassandra Markovich led the Matadors with 14 points, while junior Jamie McCaa had 13, sophomore Katie Holloway had 12 and junior Megan Ching added 11.
Cal Poly’s Sparkle Anderson scored a game-high 17 points while Sarah Grieve had 15, and Jessica Eggleston and Megan Harrison had 12 apiece.
CSUN’s loss to Cal Poly not only snapped CSUN’s three-game winning streak, but also ensured that the Matadors would finish seventh in the Big West.
On March 4, the Matadors went to UC Santa Barbara, looking for its first win against the Gauchos since 1984.
Again, CSUN started out well, jumping out to a 13-6 lead on a McCaa three. UCSB, however, got back on track, as Ana Onaindia started a Gaucho rally with a three at the top of the key, which started a 9-2 run that gave the Gauchos a 17-15 lead.
A layup by junior LaJoyce King tied the game and two free throws by freshman Ashley Blake put CSUN back in front.
Whitney Warron tied the game with two free throws and a Holloway basket gave CSUN a 21-19 lead.
It turned out to be CSUN’s last lead of the game, as Onaindia sank a three to give UCSB the lead.
The Gauchos led 32-25 when Krisztina Fuleki hit a jumper and a three pointer sandwiched between two Jessica Wilson free throws to cut the deficit to 34-30, but LaShay Fears ended the first half with a desperation three from half-court as time expired that swished through the net, giving UCSB a 37-30 lead at the half.
“It was really kind of a five-point turnaround because we went down and we did not execute our own play,” Schulz said.
The Gauchos opened up the second half with a 15-3 run to take a commanding 54-33 lead. The closest CSUN got was 14, but never threatened in the second half, as it trailed by as many as 25.
With the win, UCSB earned a share of the Big West Conference regular season title with Long Beach State, which clinched its share with a 66-65 win over UC Irvine the same day.
Despite the fast start, CSUN struggled most of the day, as the Matadors shot 37 percent and turned the ball over 27 times.
McCaa and Ching were the only Matadors in double figures, as they both scored 11 points. Wilson led the Gauchos with 17 points, while center Jenna Green had 15 points and nine rebounds and Onaindia added 10.
“We didn’t handle the ball,” McCaa said. “We just got a little frustrated.”
CSUN will face the Anteaters in the first round of the Big West Tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center on March 8 at 2:30 p.m.
McCaa was the only Matador named to the All-Big West Honorable Mention Team March 6.
Ivan Yeo can be reached at email@example.com.