Matadors Face Gauchos, Mustangs on the Road
NORTHRIDGE, Calif. --- The Cal State Northridge women's basketball team (16-10, 10-3 Big West Confernece) hits the road for a final time in the regular season, venturing up the California coast for contests at UC Santa Barbara (2/23, 7 p.m.) and Cal Poly (2/25, 4 p.m.). Both games will feature live stats, video and Internet-only audio with links available at GoMatadors.com. Fans are also encouraged to check CSUN's Twitter account (@GoMatadors) for in-game updates for both contests.
Last week, Northridge picked up a pair of important victories at The Matadome. On Feb. 16, CSUN defeated Pacific 63-56 as Janae Sharpe scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half. Jasmine Erving added 17 points and 11 rebounds, her 12th double-double of the season, as CSUN completed the series sweep over the Tigers.
Two days later, the Matadors rallied from a 15-point deficit with 10 minutes remaining to defeat UC Davis 63-60. Erving led the Matadors with a game-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and Jessica Duarte scored all 11 of her points in the second half as CSUN snapped a five-game losing streak to UCD.
This week, Northridge must continue its good form on the road in two tough environments. On Feb. 23, the Matadors take on the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara, a team that escaped with a 71-67 double-overtime win at Northridge in their previous meeting this season. Then it's a match-up with Cal Poly, a team just a half game back in the standings in the race for the Big West Conference regular season title.
On Mar. 3, the Matadors close out the regular season with a contest against Cal State Fullerton. The game, which is slated for a 4 p.m. tipoff, will feature a ceremony honoring CSUN's two seniors: Erving and Bridgette Conejo.
CSUN's Dr. J
Senior Jasmine Erving had a strong week for CSUN last week, helping the team to wins over Pacific and UC Davis. Against the Tigers, she went for 17 points and 11 rebounds, her 12th double-double of the season. She then added a game-high 24 points as Northridge rallied to defeat the Aggies. She earned Big West Player of the Week honors on Feb. 6 after posting two solid performances in both of CSUN's road wins. At UC Riverside, she scored 22 points, all in the second half, and added 11 rebounds as CSUN erased a 14-point deficit in toppling the Highlanders. Two days later, Erving scored a career-high 36 points on a school-record 16 field goals to go along with nine rebounds at UC Irvine. The Santa Ana, Calif., native enters Thursday's game averaging 16.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, figures that rank third and second, respectively, among all Big West Conference players. The 12 season double-doubles gives her 25 for her Matador career.
Freshman Janae Sharpe tied a season high for the third time when she scored 19 points, including 17 in the second half, in the home win over Pacific. For the season, Sharpe is averaging 11.0 points per game, the second-best figure on the team and 11th among all Big West players. She is also averaging 4.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.2 steals (third in the league) per game and has scored in double-figures 15 times this season. Sharpe tied a season high with 19 points in the Matadors' double-overtime loss to UC Santa Barbara. She hit 11-of-14 free throws against the Gauchos, which also set a new season high. Sharpe had a strong start to her Big West career, earning the league's Player of the Week after helping lead the Matadors to a pair of wins during the opening weekend of conference play. Against UC Irvine, she scored a season-high 19 points and had a season-high seven steals. Two days later, Sharpe added 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists as the Matadors defeated UC Riverside.
A Guay with Words
Freshman Ashlee Guay dished out a season-high nine assists in the Matadors' victory at UC Irvine. The San Diego, Calif., native is averaging 8.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.2 steals for the year. In fact, Guay leads the league with 82 steals and 112 assists on the season. She tied a school Division I record when she hit seven 3-pointers in the Matadors' win over Cal Poly. Against the Mustangs, Guay hit all seven of her attempts from downtown and finished with a season-high 23 points. In fact, Guay is tied for the national mark this season for most 3-point makes without a miss. After finishing with six steals against UCI, Guay has now had two games with seven steals, two with six and five more with at least four. She now ranks 14th among all Division I players with her steals average and she has set a new school Division-I record with 82 steals on the year, the second-most in school history for a single season.
Do or Duarte
Freshman Jessica Duarte has repeatedly come up with big shots during her rookie season. In the win over UC Davis, Duarte scored all 11 of her points in the second half as CSUN rallied from a double-digit deficit. She hit two key 3-pointers in the Matadors' road win at Cal State Fullerton and also has had memorable buckets against Pepperdine, West Virginia and UC Santa Barbara. Duarte finished with a season-high 19 points and grabbed a season-high eight rebounds in the Matadors' victory over UC Riverside on Dec. 31. The rookie scored from all parts of the floor and also connected on a season-high seven free throws in the contest. Since making her debut against Colgate, Duarte is averaging 6.8 points and has hit 20 3-pointers. She has also reached 11 points against the Pepperdine Waves and in CSUN's win over San Jose State.
Georgia on My Mind
Freshman Randi Friess has earned a spot in the starting line-up based largely on her hustle and fearlessness in crashing the boards. Originally from Savannah, Ga., Friess tied a season high with nine rebounds in the Matadors' home victory over Pacific. She also had a season-high eight points in the Matadors' win at UC Riverside and then knocked down a season-high two 3-pointers in CSUN's win at UC Irvine. For the season, Friess is averaging 3.0 points and 3.3 rebounds, including a season-high nine boards against CSU Bakersfield. One statistic that speaks to Friess' hustle is that 16 of her 20 steals have come against Big West opponents.
Mahl-Knechting the Dots
Freshman Camille Mahlknecht finished with five points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the home win over UCD. She finished with 11 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes at UC Irvine. She added 11 points and collected five rebounds with two blocked shots off the bench for CSUN in the win at Long Beach State. Mahlknecht had a season-high five blocked shots in the Matadors' victory over UC Irvine. She also brought down a season-high 13 rebounds in the Matadors' win over San Jose State and added 12 points against Fresno State. For the season, the Agoura, Calif., native is averaging 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. She now has 35 blocks on the year, a 1.3 per game average that ranks third in the Big West Conference. Offensively, Mahlknecht has five double-figure scoring performances on the season, including a season-high 14 points and seven field goals at Oregon State.
Roses are Blue, Violets are Matador Red
Junior Violet Alama continues to bring a strong presence off the bench for the Matadors. In the Matadors' home win over the Aggies, she had nine points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists. At UC Davis, Alama posted a season-high 19 points and 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. She also had a career-high five steals against the Aggies in 30 minutes. In the Matadors' win at Long Beach State, Alama posted a game-high 11 rebounds to go with six points in 20 minutes. She had nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds as the Matadors defeated UC Riverside. At Portland, she finished with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in 19 minutes. Through 26 games, Alama is averaging 7.4 points and 6.1 rebounds, the 9th-best average in the Big West. She recorded her sixth career double-double in the Matadors' victory at San Francisco, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the victory. Then in CSUN's win at LMU, she added 14 points, including two 3-pointers, and eight rebounds.
Conference and National Notes
Through 26 games this season, the Matadors find themselves with some pretty impressive stats. Defensively, the Matadors are second in the conference in field goal percentage defense (.368) and third in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.300). Northridge leads the league and ranks 60th in the nation with an average of 4.5 blocks per game and has a league-leading steals average of 10.8 per game, a figure that ranks 37th in the nation. On offense, CSUN ranks fourth in the Big West and 96th in the nation with a team free throw percentage of .712 (405-569). Individually, freshman Ashlee Guay is second in the league and ranks 18th among all Division I players with an average of 3.2 steals per game. With 12 double-doubles, Jasmine Erving is tied for 20th in the nation among all Division I players.
Already a Season of Firsts
Northridge has accomplished mutiple feats through 26 games of the 2011-12 season. Northridge's home win over UC Davis was CSUN's first since 2007. The home win over Pacific marked the first time CSUN has swept the Tigers in the regular season series since the 2004-05 season. The Matadors picked up their first conference series sweep over UC Riverside ever and also won for the first time at the Highlanders in over six years. The Matadors' home victories over UC Irvine and UC Riverside and the road win at Long Beach State were their first since the 2006-07 season. CSUN's 30-point victory over San Jose State was the program's largest victory in over 11 years. Northridge defeated West Virginia in the championship game of the Thanksgiving Basketball Classic, the program's first win ever over a BIG EAST program. With four wins in November, the Matadors won their most games in the season's opening month since the 1998-99 season. The Matadors' win over Colgate in the Thanksgiving Basketball Classic was also the first time CSUN has won its home opener since the 2004-05 season. The Matadors' victory over San Francisco on Nov. 11 was the program's first ever against the Dons and head coach Jason Flowers' first career non-conference win. The win also marked the first time Northridge won a season opener since the 2004-05 season. CSUN's win against LMU was the program's first since 1997 and the first win at LMU since 1990.
Scouting UC Santa Barbara
UC Santa Barbara enters the week at 11-14 overall and 5-7 in the Big West Conference. Last week, the Gauchos split their two road contests, winning at UC Riverside before falling to UC Irvine. As a team, UCSB is shooting 38.2 percent from the field, 28.7 percent from 3-point range and 71.3 percent from the free throw line. The Gauchos are also averaging 36.1 rebounds, 11.7 assists and 14.6 turnovers per game. UC Santa Barbara has won the last 10 meetings with CSUN, including a 71-67 double-overtime victory at Northridge in mid-January. In fact, CSUN has defeated UCSB just once since 1984, a 66-64 win in 2007 at The Thunderdome.
Scouting Cal Poly
Cal Poly enters the week with a 13-12 overall mark and a 9-3 record in the Big West Conference. The Mustangs, who are on a seven-game winning streak, host Long Beach State on Feb. 23 before facing the Matadors. Kristina Santiago is the team's anchor, leading the squad and the conference in scoring (22.7 points), rebounding (9.9 per game) and in field goal percentage (.556, 213-383). Kayla Griffin is averaging 9.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while Ashlee Burns is averaging 9.2 ppg and has hit 53 3-pointers on the season. As a team, Cal Poly is shooting 43.1 percent from the field, 34.8 percent from 3-point range and 73 percent from the free throw line. The Mustangs also average 40 rebounds, 15.3 assists and 14.7 turnovers per game. Northridge won the earlier meeting between the two schools, 79-77, as Violet Alama made a lay-up with 30 seconds left to lift CSUN to the win.