Cal State Northridge women’s basketball head coach Staci Schulz had hoped to celebrate her birthday on Tuesday, Dec. 5 with a win over the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine.
However, the Wahine had other plans, and they waited until the second half to play the role of party pooper, as they used a 46-point second half to rally from a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat the Matadors 72-61 at the Matadome.
“It’s (about) putting two good halves together and today we didn’t do that,” senior LaJoyce King said.
King was again a double threat on both the offensive end and the boards, as she scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, her second straight double-double game. Ofa Tulikihihifo had 14 points and Krisztina Fuleki had 11.
Hawaii got huge games from Pam Tambini and Jenevia Taylor. Tambini had a game-high 19 points and Taylor had 16. Both players also hit crucial shots for the Rainbow Wahine in the game’s critical stages. Tanya Smith had 15 points and Saundra Cariaga added 10 points.
CSUN never trailed in the first half. The closest Hawaii got was 8-7 on a Taylor three. CSUN then turned it up from there. Jazelle Burries scored inside and following a defensive stance, Fuleki nailed a three from the left corner to give the Matadors a 13-7 lead. Hawaii went on a brief 6-2 run, cutting the lead to 15-13, but the Matadors scored seven in a row to take a 22-13 lead.
Tambini stopped the run with a three, which was followed by two Tulikihihifo free throws. On the Matadors’ next possession, Taylor forced a steal and fed Tambini for a breakaway layup to cut the lead back to six at 24-18. The Matadors, though, didn’t let them get any closer. Pairs of free throws by senior guard Megan Ching and Tulikihihifo as well as a 1-of-2 by Crystal Hahs stretched the lead to double digits at 29-18 and a Tulikihihifo score completed a seven-point spurt. CSUN never let the lead get below double digits the rest of the half, taking a 39-26 lead into the locker room.
“I guess it was a little too easy,” Schulz said of the first half. “I think we would’ve been better off if we were at a closer game.”
Hawaii came out with renewed energy early in the second half. Smith scored the first point of the second half and later hit a pair of free throws to cut the Matador lead to single digits. Burries scored inside off a pass from King to raise the lead back, but Saundra Cariaga stole an inbounds pass and went all the way for the score. King responded with a running layup, but a Tambini three cut the CSUN lead to eight. Grice scored off a rebound, then the Wahine forced a turnover and Smith went all the way for the score to cut the lead to 43-39, forcing a CSUN timeout.
Hawaii continued to stay hot, though. A Cariaga score cut the lead to two, Blake stopped the Hawaii run with a three at the left, but a Smith score was then followed by a Tambini three, which tied the game at 46. A Hawaii jumper at the top of the key gave Hawaii a 48-46 lead, its first of the game.
A pair of King free throws tied the game at 48. Tambini put Hawaii back in front, King responded again with an inside score to tie the game, then put the Matadors back in the lead with a pair of free throws. Taylor, though, swished a three on Hawaii’s ensuing possession to make it a 53-52 Wahine game. A pair of Hahs free throws gave CSUN the lead back, but Taylor answered with another three to give Hawaii a 56-54 lead. Taylor scored again on a driving layup to make it a four-point game. Taylor also drew a foul in the act of shooting, though she missed the free throw. Hawaii’s surge forced another CSUN timeout.
Following the break, the Matadors worked the ball inside to Tulikihihifo, who scored on a jumper close inside to cut the lead to two. A pair of Smith free throws raised the Rainbow Wahine lead back to four and 26 seconds later, Brittany Grice hit a jumper at the right side to make a 62-56 Hawaii lead.
The Matadors had gone just about two and a half minutes without a point, which was broken at the 4:47 mark on a pair of Burries free throws, which cut the lead to four. King then hit one of two free throws with 4:13 left to cut it to three.
Both teams came up with defensive stops, but the Rainbow Wahine got the much-needed big shot with just under three minutes left. Tambini forced a CSUN turnover and Hawaii worked the ball to Taylor, who hit a crucial three at the top of the key with 2:57 left to go. Then, with 2:03 left, Cariaga hit a running jumper at the right to make it an eight-point game. Tulikihihifo attempted a three shortly thereafter that missed to the left and went out of bounds. Tambini hit one of two free throws and later got another steal and took it all the way for the layup that made it a 70-59 lead, and Hawaii was home free from there.
“We just didn’t come out with enough energy and we let them come back and (we) gave them the game,” Ching said.
After shooting only 8-37 (22 percent) from the floor and 3-13 (23 percent) from the three-point line in the first half, the Rainbow Wahine turned up the heat, shooting 17-34 (50 percent) and 5-9 (56 percent) from behind the three-point arc. Hawaii outscored CSUN 46-22 in the second half.