The Matadors (6-19, 3-9 Big West) showed up as a different team on Saturday, beating the Cal State Fullerton Titans, 78-67, and ending a six-game losing streak.
CSUN was in control the entire way, finishing the first half up by 19. Their performance, however, was no shocker for Head Coach Staci Schulz.
‘This game is what we’re capable of,’ Schulz said. ‘What was surprising was the way we played in the other games (the losses).’
Though Schulz thought there were no surprises in the game, the Titans (7-17, 4-9) might have thought otherwise after watching freshman center, Neeta Sreekanth have a career night.
Coming off the bench, Sreekanth scored 16 points and collected five rebounds for the game. At 6-foot-5, she had a considerable size advantage over her defenders, which gave her easy shots inside the paint.
‘It was just one of those games,’ said Sreekanth in regards to her performance. ‘I work on my shooting every day in practice and I’ve been letting my coaches know I can shoot out there.’
She indeed could shoot from out there. Six of her 16 points came from beyond the three-point line. Saturday seemed to be a night for the three-ball, with both teams totaling a combined of 12 3-pointers.’ ‘ ‘
Matador guard Ashley Blake gave the Matadors their first points of the game from deep outside, and kept shooting the long ball.’ ‘ ‘
Twelve of Blake’s 13 points came from beyond the arc.
For the Titans, guard Lauren Chow had all five of her 3-pointers in the second half while the Titans struggled to come back from huge deficit.
In the opening half, the Matadors shot just under 50 percent and finished with a 39-20 lead.
CSUN got the scoring going quick. Schulz said that’s what happens when they have good practices during the week.
‘When we practice better, we can come out and play better basketball,’ she said. ‘Things were working out and even Neeta was knocking down shots.’
Sreekanth came into the game with 8 minutes left in the opening period. Immediately, she broke the 10-10 tie that had lasted nearly six minutes. After that, CSUN went on a 14-0 run, keeping the Titans scoreless for more than 10 minutes.
‘I guess you can say I was kind of a spark for the team,’ Sreekanth said. ‘The first ‘three’ I hit got us going.’
Sreekanth added that the team usually gets their spark from Blake or Whitney Ligon. Not on Saturday. That was her day.
During the Matadors’ 14-0 run, Sreekanth had five points. She finished the half with eight points.
Ligon also had an impact coming off the bench. She scored 11 points in the opening half and finished the night with 19.
‘I had been in a slump for a while, but my teammates stood behind me,’ said Ligon about coming off the bench. ‘Tonight we ran the floor well and it all started with defense.’
One thing CSUN did well defensively was rebounding. Of their 43 rebounds, 33 came on the defensive end. This was helpful for a team that has said time and time again that rebounding is where they struggle the most.
As for the top rebounder, it was not one of their post players, but rather their point guard, Tonicia Tademy.
Tademy scored six points on the night, but her 10 rebounds and 10 assists were team highs.
Ligon said Tademy’s assists were part of what got her back into a rhythm.
”T’ and I have good chemistry,’ said Ligon about some of the passes Tademy made.
‘(Fullerton) plays in-your-face defense, and all I did was go ‘whoop,’ right by them.’
The Matadors have four games left in the season and are in a battle to stay off last place with UC Irvine. Schulz said CSUN has momentum going into those games and that as long as her team keeps its confidence level up, it should have a shot at the Big West Tournament.