The Cal State Northridge women’s basketball team used a strong defensive first half and a big second half run and closed out its preseason schedule with a 77-66 victory over the Master’s College at the Matadome, Nov. 4.
Senior Krisztina Fuleki led the Matadors with 15 points, all in the first half. She got help from senior LaJoyce King, who had 13 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four blocks, while senior Ofa Tulikihihifo contributed with 12 points in 19 minutes of play.
“Coming off of last game where I did not score any points, I told myself to play like I was at practice,” Fuleki said. “Be comfortable with the ball and shoot. That’s what I know how to do, shoot.”
Jen Ayers-Stamper led the Mustangs with 16 points but on 6-23 shooting. Annie Gillespie chipped in with 13 points while Lisa Chenoweth put in 10 for the Master’s College.
The Matadors started out strong in the first half, scoring the first eight points of the game and not allowing a point for the first five minutes. CSUN extended its lead to double digits at 15-5 on two free throws from King with seven minutes gone by in the first half.
CSUN would extend its lead to 20 at 27-7 five minutes later off a jumper by Fuleki. The Matadors’ defense was actually so good that it took the Mustangs more than 15 minutes to reach double figures in scoring.
The Mustangs did go on a run at the end of the first half to cut the lead to 37-25, but Fuleki hit a three from above the circle with the shot clock running down and then hit a 10-foot jumper as time expired to give CSUN a 42-25 halftime lead.
Fuleki led the team at the half with 15 points on 7-9 shooting in nine minutes off the bench. King contributed with nine points, four rebounds and four assists in 18 minutes. Stacy Nanninga and Kinsley Mittel led the Master’s College with six first-half points apiece.
CSUN shot 50 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free throw line. The Matador defense held the Master’s College to 28 percent shooting from the field and forced 19 first-half turnovers. However, CSUN had trouble holding onto the ball as well, coughing it up 17 times.
“I think we can execute a little bit better,” said head coach Staci Schulz. “We need to work on handling the ball pressure and seeing how to get open.”
In the second half, the Matadors gave up a lot more points but used a 15-0 run capped off by a jumper by senior Jamie McCaa that pushed CSUN’s lead to 67-38.
The Mustangs cut the lead to 20 three minutes later off an Ayers-Stamper jumper and even cut the lead to seven with less than a minute remaining. However, sophomore Ashley Blake hit a jumper in the lane and sophomore Crystal Hahs hit one of two free throws to give CSUN the double digit victory.
“This game was really a 25 to 30 point game,” Schulz said. “But I was playing people that are going to need some experience down the road. I probably gambled a little bit more at the end in a 10 point game with two and a half minutes left but it really doesn’t count against our record and (I) really needed to get some experience to some other people.”
CSUN held the Master’s College to a dreadful 29 percent shooting from the field, including 17 percent from beyond the arc. The Mustangs, however, shot 83 percent from the charity stripe, which kept them reasonably close at the end.
The Matadors shot 46 percent from the field, but only 70 percent from the free-throw line and 22 percent from three-point range. However, CSUN had 10 blocks to the Mustangs’ two, eight of those blocks courtesy of Hahs.
The game was sloppy, as one would expect from a preseason game. There were a combined 64 turnovers, 34 from CSUN and 30 from the Master’s College and only 29 assists, 20 coming from the Matadors and nine coming from the Mustangs.
“It’s never OK to make 34 turnovers,” Tulikihihifo said. “But we would rather take the turnovers now rather than a game that matters later.”
The Matadors’ next game will begin regular season play against San Diego on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Matadome.