The Matadors (5-16, 2-6 BWC) played the Mustangs close the entire game, but, in the end, they weren’t able to close it out and lost 68-61 on Saturday at the Matadome.
Though she was quiet in the first half, the Matadors needed to keep their eye on Cal Poly’s number 12, Kristina Santiago.
Santiago scored 29 points in the Mustangs’ prior game, against Pacific, and ended with 18 on Saturday. Sixteen of those came in the second half.
‘You know, we had her at two points in the first half,’ CSUN Head Coach Staci Schulz said. ‘We allowed her to get too close to the rim and that’s a high-percentage shot for her.’
Santiago also had six rebounds, something the Matadors were trying to prevent.
‘We need to keep rebounding and we need to keep people out of the paint,’ Schulz said.
A player that worked hard to get those rebounds was CSUN’s Katrina Thompson. Thompson finished the night with 18 points and six rebounds. She has scored in double-digits in seven of the Matadors’ eight Big West Conference games so far.
Matching up against the Mustangs, Thompson had to work harder as an undersized forward. She is only 5’8′, but there is something that makes her play at the level of bigger players.
‘It starts with heart,’ Thompson said. ‘Our coaches pointed that out the other day and I just want it. I want to get better every day.’
Her heart carried her to the title of Player of the Week for the end of January.
‘It felt good to get Player of the Week,’ Thompson said. ‘My teammates helped me get it too. Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten that recognition.’
In getting better every day, she also said that she does everything she can to make ‘her bigs’ better. One of those players is freshman center Jasmine Erving.
Erving had 10 points and 10 rebounds against the Mustangs in a game where she played more minutes than in her last two games combined. Erving had also earned the title of Player of the Week, a week before Thompson.
In the opening half, it was Erving who led the team in rebounding. Going into the locker room, she had six points and seven rebounds.
Coming out of the locker room, it was Ashley Blake who got things started for CSUN. Her first basket of the second half was a 3-pointer, giving the team a quick jump-start, just the way she did a weekend before against UC Irvine.
Blake said she feels very comfortable behind the three-point line and it showed as she finished with four three’s.
Her 3-pointers weren’t enough for the win, though, and part of the problem was her team going away from what it did in the first half.
‘We just went away from what we were doing,’ she said. ‘(Schulz) had mentioned in the locker room that we went away from what (our coaches) said about (Cal Poly) in the scouting report.’
Schulz said they stopped doing the things that were working for them in the opening half.
‘They weren’t cutting through and we were bumping cutters,’ said Schulz about the way CSUN defended the Mustangs early on. ‘We stopped doing that in the second half.’
The Matadors next game is on Feb. 11.
‘We need a bit of a break,’ Schulz said.
Some of the players agree. The break will be beneficiary.
‘This break will help us out,’ Thompson said. ‘It will help us get ready for the second part of the Big West season.’
The Matadors are sixth in the Big West. In their next game, they play against Long Beach State, a team they already beat once before this season.