The CSUN Matador women’s basketball team did not have much to give thanks for this past weekend in Moraga, California.
The Matadors had a rough weekend at the Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic at Saint Mary’s College. CSUN lost a tough overtime battle to the host Gaels 100-91, then crashed in its tournament finale, as they lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide 75-56.
Against Saint Mary’s, the Matadors stayed with the Gaels throughout most of the first half. However, with six and a half minutes remaining, the Matadors managed to outscore Saint Mary’s 9-4 to take a 37-31 lead into the locker room.
The Matadors continued their strong play well into the second half, leading by as many as 14, but the Gaels did not let the Matadors get any further, as they eventually clawed their way back into the game with a 21-7 run that tied the score at 62 with eight minutes to play in regulation. The game was close from there on, as both teams switched leads during various points of the game. CSUN actually held an 83-81 lead with 16 seconds left, but a Monica Mertle score tied the game with two seconds left and the game eventually went into overtime.
In the extra session, it was the Gaels who started out hot, scoring 11 of the first 13 points. The Gaels flew off from there, leading by as many as 11 and successfully defending their home court.
“Until that point, they were pressing us the whole game, and we were pretty much shooting open jump shots and lay-ups that were not even part of our offense,” head coach Staci Schulz said. “We didn’t have to execute our offense the entire time, then they stopped pressing us for a window of time and the next thing you know, we had to take the ball to them a little bit more and we didn’t execute so well. Then they turned their press back on, and that’s where the problems started.”
Senior forward Ofa Tulikihihifo was one of five Matadors in double figures with 23 points, and she also pulled down nine boards. Senior center Kristin O’Rourke was also a solid contributor in Friday’s game, as she scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds, also a career-high while filling in for Katie Holloway, who did not play that night.
“She had that new mentality of get in there, get some rebounds, play solid defense and the rest comes naturally,” Schulz said.
Other Matadors who had a good game against Saint Mary’s were senior forward Jazelle Burries, who had 12 points, including two crucial baskets that gave the Matadors the 83-81 lead. Sophomore Ashley Blake also scored 12 points and senior guard Jamie McCaa had 10 points.
For the Gaels, Mertle had a team-high 22 points, Majia Ladhe had 21 points, Sheridan Arredondo had 18 points, Jontelle Smith had 17 points and Eghosa Obaiza had 14 points.
The Matadors’ loss sent them to the consolation game against Alabama on Saturday evening. CSUN, though, was not about to be intimidated by the sight of an opponent from the South Eastern Conference, as they again kept most of the first half close until Alabama went on a 14-4 run to take a 10-point lead at 28-18. The Crimson Tide then took a 36-24 lead into intermission.
The second half belonged to the Crimson Tide, who led by as many as 23 points in the second half on their way to claiming third place in the tournament and sending CSUN to its third straight loss.
“(Alabama) ran a pretty good triangle offense, and they were firing on all cylinders,” Schulz said.
Kate Mastin was one of those Crimson Tide players who fired on all cylinders, as she scored 28 points, 24 of them coming from 8-10 three-pointers. Navonda Moore was the only other Crimson Tide in double figures with 16 points.
“We couldn’t get out on that because we also had to stop all those slash backdoor cuts and slashes to the basket. They’re also very strong,” Schulz said.
Schulz also noted that there were some off-the-court elements that contributed to the Matadors’ poor weekend, as some players got sick during the second day of the tournament.
“We had two players that didn’t even make the flight home, a coach and a player,” Schulz said. “One of them was a food poisoning case (and) we had the flu going around.”
Senior Krisztina Fuleki led the Matador effort with 18 points, all of them coming from the three-point line. Senior LaJoyce King had 11 points and McCaa added another 10 points. McCaa has scored in double figures in all of the Matadors’ six games.
CSUN now stands at 2-4 on the season. The Matadors attempted to regroup yesterday when they hosted a tough Pepperdine Waves squad at the Matadome that had knocked off teams like then 14th-ranked Rutgers, Iowa State (whom Pepperdine handed its first loss to), and Nevada-Las Vegas on the road. Information regarding yesterday’s game will be available in tomorrow’s edition of the Sundial.