The Matadors (16-14, 12-4 Big West) secured a historical first-ever Big West Conference title with a close win, 54-52 against the Long Beach State 49ers (15-14, 7-8 Big West) Thursday evening at Walter Pyramid.
With the victory against Long Beach, CSUN has officially secured the first-place seed in the upcoming Big West Tournament and will play Friday March 14 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
CSUN is followed in conference by the Cal Poly Mustangs (16-12, 10-5 Big West) who is tied for second in conference with the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine (16-11, 10-5 Big West).
Despite falling behind early on and later giving up significant runs to Long Beach, CSUN held their own during crucial moments against the 49ers to officially become this year’s conference champs.
Coming into the first half, the 49ers laid four points down on CSUN before junior guard Randi Friess landed a 3-pointer at 18:30, effectively putting the Matadors in the game.
CSUN exchanged leads with Long Beach up until midway through the half when a combination of free-throws and effective defense put the Matadors in a comfortable lead.
The half closed with the 49ers trailing 31-22, but with solid offense coming into the second half Long Beach would make an impressive attempt to recapture the game.
Long Beach shot hot going into the second half, managing an 11-0 run over CSUN that put them within a few points of the Matadors.
At eight minutes in the half CSUN would start a six-point run that gave them some distance over Long Beach, but the 49ers would counter at the wire and reach a tie.
Coming off of CSUN’s run, Long Beach landed seven points that put them 47-46 over the Matadors at 1:21 in the half.
Matadors sophomore center Bernadette Fong landed a jump shot with 48 seconds left, and benefitting from a personal foul with one second to go, junior guard Cinnamon Lister would sink both her free throws to grant CSUN its championship status.
Both teams showed a lackluster shooting average with CSUN shooting at 27.3 percent and the 49ers with an average of 29.3 percent from the field.
The Matadors would make good off of their free throws, landing 11 of 15 and had a decent spread of assist among guards.
Fong would lead the game with 12 points, followed by Lister who would share 11 points with 49ers guard Hallie Meneses.
Cal Poly is scheduled to play against UC Santa Barbara (8-20, 3-12 Big West) March 8, in what will be both teams final conference game before heading to the tournament. UC Santa Barbara, who sits second to last in conference standings, was defeated earlier this season by Cal Poly 88-70.
The Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine will play Cal State Fullerton (11-17, 7-8 Big West) March 8, and previously defeated the Titans 65-52 on Feb. 15.
The round of the Big West Tournament will be played in Long Beach at the Walter Pyramid between the eighth through third seed spots from March 12-13.
The Matadors will await the results of the first two rounds, as they will host the lowest-remaining seeded team in a semifinal Friday at noon at the Honda Center. Either Cal Poly or Hawai’i will finish in the second seed and play in the other semifinal game.