Women close in on conference lead, drop UCSB 66-64

Debby von Winckelmann

While most CSUN students were relaxing on their winter break, the women’s basketball team was winning games and, in the process, accumulating an impressive list of accomplishments.

The most recent addition to the list: beating UC Santa Barbara 66-64 at the Thunderdome in Santa Barbara on Jan. 25 to move into second place in the Big West.

The win is the first against the Gauchos since 1984 and the first win in Santa Barbara since 1979. The Matadors improve to a 5-1 conference record and a 9-10 overall record.

The Matadors are boasting the best offense in the Big West as of Jan. 24, scoring an average of 70.2 points per game.

This team also leads the conference in field goal percentage with 42.5 percent, offensive rebounding at 42.2 per game, defensive rebounding at 30.78 per game, and assists at 16.89 per game.

The Matadors are second in the conference in blocks with 3.78 per game and field goal percentage defense at 38.9 percent.

CSUN is fourth in the conference in three-pointers at 4.72 per game and three-point percentage at 29.9 percent.

Individually, the Matadors hold top ten spots in 12 Big West categories for statistics compiled through Jan. 24.

Senior LaJoyce King, who averages 11.1 rebounds per game, is ranked first in the conference and is ranked eighth nationally.

King is also first in defensive rebounds with 8.00 per game and in field goal percentage with 52.5 percent.

Averaging 3.13 offensive rebounds per game, King is fourth in the conference and she is tenth in points with 13.4 per game.

The senior rebound leader is also one of only two players in the Big West averaging a double-double per game.

She has scored eight double-doubles in the last 11 games through Jan. 24 and she has earned two Big West Player of the Week (POW) awards.

She won her first award this season on Jan. 2 after scoring her fourth double-double of the season with 19 points and 16 rebounds in a 72-50 win over Pacific.

King was again awarded POW on Jan. 15 after she scored two more double-doubles on the road in wins against UC Irvine (76-60) and Long Beach State (73-63).

King said she doesn’t keep track of her stats and she doesn’t try to score double-doubles, she just goes out and plays her hardest.

In fact, she isn’t really disappointed when she doesn’t score a double-double; she’s disappointed when the team loses.

“Sometimes I feel a little pressure because now that I am performing a little better, it’s like I’m expected to do it now. That’s the only thing, but I don’t mind because I think if I keep working hard then I’ll get whatever I’m supposed to get,” said King.

Senior Jamie McCaa leads the conference in free throw percentage at 82.2 percent.

She is second in steals, averaging 2.06 per game and fourth in three-point field goals (1.71 per game) and three-point field goal percentage (37.2 percent).

McCaa is fifth in assists with 3.59 per game and is tied for eighth in the Big West in points, averaging 13.5 per game and field goal percentage at 42.1 percent per game.

She is also sixth in defensive rebounds at 5.24 per game, seventh in minutes played, averaging 33.53 per game, and tenth in rebounds at 6.0 per game.

Despite making the top ten in the conference in ten categories, McCaa says she really doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the statistics.

“I don’t know. I’m not a real stat person. When people tell me I get excited and that’s cool, because I love it, but it’s not like (I think about) I need to get this many. Our biggest thing is we just want to win, so that’s our main focus,” said McCaa.

McCaa won POW honors on December 26 after she sank a three-pointer against 20th-ranked Michigan State to tie the game at 63 and send it to overtime.

Although the Matadors lost the game 73-69, McCaa scored 21 points, played a career high 43 minutes, and reached 800 career points.

Since then, she has surpassed the 900 point milestone in CSUN’s 73-62 non-conference win against UC Davis on Jan. 18.

“Our biggest thing is that we’ve never gotten the respect that we deserve around the conference, so that’s what we’re trying to prove this year. To get respect and show that we are a good team,” said McCaa.

Senior Ofa Tulikihihifo became the all-time leading scorer during an 87-73 non-conference home game loss against Montana on Dec. 17, ending the game with 1,408 career points.

Tulikihihifo said that she thought more about the loss of that game than the fact that she had become the leading scorer. She said she didn’t do any count down to the record and she didn’t track how close she was.

“Actually, everyone kept telling me because I would never know,” she said.

Tulikihihifo now has 1,507 points after passing the 1,500 mark during CSUN’s 73-62 win against UC Davis on Jan. 18 at the Matadome.

Tulikihihifo is fifth in the Big West in points, averaging 14.9 per game, and in field goal percentage at 45.3 percent per game. She is eighth in steals with 1.89 per game and ninth in rebounding (6.9 per game), offensive rebounds (2.33 per game) and defensive rebounds (4.56 per game).

“That’s what’s so great about this ball game. Statistics don’t really do much, except give you bragging rights. It’s whoever comes that night and just brings it,” said Tulikihihifo.

Head coach Staci Schulz says she loves the fact that her players care more about the team and the wins than about the individual accomplishments.

“They are the most unselfish team and I think I have seven people that are capable of double-doubles on any given night and if someone’s having a down night, someone else is stepping up and so it’s that kind of depth that helps us,” said Schulz.

Other CSUN players in the Big West top ten are Krisztina Fuleki who is fifth in three-point field goals with 1.67 per game, Crystal Hahs, third in blocks with 1.35 per game and Jazelle Burries, tied for eighth in blocks with 0.67 per game.

Katie Holloway has also returned to play after missing ten games in the season with a broken finger and is averaging 9.3 points per game.

With all of the accomplishments of this women’s basketball team, you have to wonder: if this team doesn’t win the Big West Tournament and make it to the NCAA Tournament, when will it ever happen?

Head coach Staci Schulz agrees, but is cautious.

“The whole philosophy of respect everybody and fear nobody is really what we’re living by because anything can still happen,” said Schulz. “There’s still good competitive teams out there.”

The Matadors will close out the first half of conference play at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo on Jan. 27 and will return home to face Long Beach State on Feb. 1 and UC Irvine on Feb. 3.

“Anything can still happen. As long as we show up, we’re going to win,” said Schulz.