Basketball teams head to Big West Tournament

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Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams are set to play today in the Big West Conference Tournament. Both teams finished the season fourth in the conference during the regular season therefore receiving first-round byes, yesterday in Anaheim.

The women, entering their first ever Big West Tournament, play first, 30 minutes after the first Big West quarterfinal game is completed, against 15-12 UC Riverside. The two teams split the season series, with each team winning on the road.

The major question facing CSUN is the health of Ofa Tulikihihifo. The standout junior forward and three-time, first team All-Big West selection, is listed as a game-time decision after partially tearing the ACL in her right knee, in a game against Cal Poly, Feb. 17. Tulikihihifo practiced recently for the first time and is expected to attempt to give her knee a try.

Should she not play, her 19.3 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game will be sorely missed. In her absence, many other players will have to step up as they have over the last few games. CSUN skidded to a 2-3 finish during that time.

Forward LaJoyce King has been steady all season, averaging over 12 points, seven rebounds and almost two steals per game. Jamie McCaa also had some big games in Tulikihihifo’s absence earlier in the season. She’s averaged over nine points, three rebounds and three assists a game.

The last five games, Krisztina Fuleki and Heather Cushing have played their best basketball of the season, and if Tulikihihifo is healthy enough to play, their experience over the last five games could prove to be extremely valuable.

On the men’s side, injuries appear to be a question mark as well. In an afternoon practice on Tuesday, the teams fifth leading scorer, freshman forward Calvin Chitwood, collided with teammate Greg Okwubonye and was injured, according to Bobby Braswell, head coach.

His injury is unclear, but he was immediately taken to Northridge Hospital for “cautionary purposes.”

“We hope it’s not very serious,” Braswell said. “He’s been an integral part (of our team). (Though) we’re prepared to play with him or without him.”

Tests later turned out to reveal nothing serious, and according to Sports Information Director Ryan Finney, “he should be available for the Big West Tournament.”

The Matadors still don’t know what team they’ll be facing, but with the seniors realizing this will be their last chance, they will try to at least duplicate what they accomplished last season. Last year, CSUN upset top-seeded Utah State and made it to the Big West Finals before being defeated by Pacific 75-73.

Big West defensive player of the year, Ian Boylan will again lead the Matadors into their game. Boylan, who will be fighting to keep his Northridge career alive, averaged a team-leading 14.9 points and almost four assists a game. He also averaged over four rebounds and two steals a game en route to becoming the all-time career steals leader at CSUN.

Also fighting to keep their CSUN careers going will be the second and third leading scorers, seniors Davin White (12.8 ppg) and Joseph Frazier (11.3 ppg). Eto Onyenegecha who averaged over five points and almost four rebounds a game will also be attempting to prolong his Matador career.

Braswell said his team would head to Anaheim Wednesday to watch the first round games in order to get a feel for who they will play tonight.

“Our mindset is to focus,” Braswell said. “Play great defense, play unselfish offensively and play hard.”