After a low-energy first half on Saturday afternoon, it was CSUN senior Ashley Blake who sparked the Matadors (5-14, 2-4 BWC) to an explosive comeback against UC Irvine. Blake started the second half with a 3-pointer, giving a quick jolt to the Matador offense. It was also the last three of her 19 points that brought hopes of a third straight Big West Conference win for CSUN.
Down 46-43 with 22.7 seconds left in the game, the Matadors needed a big play. That’s when Blake banked in her fifth 3-pointer of the game to tie it.
But UC Irvine (4-15, 1-5) was left with 15 seconds to come up with a big play of their own and it did just that, feeding Kim Barnes for a layup with 1.5 seconds to go. CSUN’s counter attempt was an intercepted pass. Game over. The Matadors’ two-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the previously winless-in-conference Anteaters, 48-46. Northridge scored only 11 points in the first half. It wasn’t even until 10 minutes into the game that it scored its first field goal, courtesy of Whitney Ligon.
Fortunately enough for them, the Anteaters didn’t start off so hot either. UC Irvine shot 25 percent from the field in the first half.
The Matadors shot it worse, though (16.7 percent). They were able to get to the basket but the ball wasn’t falling for them. For a team that has led the Big West in scoring so far this season, everyone was playing below par.
Even forward Jasmine Erving, who had been on fire over the past two games, struggled on this night. She was coming off back-to-back double-doubles, but, against UC Irvine, she was less than stellar. The freshman was just 2-of-8 from the field and scored four points. It was in the second half that CSUN asserted itself. Blake was the one that began the push for the Matadors. Firing off three’s, the senior gave the team what it needed to show that CSUN wouldn’t go down easily.
However, size proved to be a big problem. The six-foot-two Erving picked up her fourth foul with 9:22 to go in the game, forcing her to take a seat and wait till crunch time. In her place came 5-foot-11 forward Analee Viena-Lota, who played tough but was outsized by Irvine’s forwards Jovana Petrovic and Kelly Cochran.
Erving came back, but fouled out with 3:42 left. The loss of her presence showed in the end, as the Anteaters felt free to drive to the basket and ultimately got the game-winning layup.
The last three games, including Saturday’s, have been settled in the last moments. Unlike their overtime victory over Long Beach State on Jan. 17 or their four-point, last-minute win against Cal State Fullerton Wednesday, this time they couldn’t get it done.
Katrina Thompson had 15 points and 11 rebounds for CSUN. No other Matador had more than four points.
The Anteaters were led by their hero of the night, Barnes. She had 11 points. Cochran scored 10.
Although CSUN only has two conference wins, over the past three games it has shown it can keep up. The Matadors will need to do more than keep up in their next game, though, as UC Santa Barbara comes to town. The Wednesday game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off.