NORTHRIDGE, Calif. ---
Matadors Face Anteaters with Shot at Big West Tournament Finals
The Cal State Northridge women's basketball team (16-14) takes on UC Irvine Friday at noon in a Big West Conference Tournament Semifinal at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The top-seeded team in the tournament, CSUN will square off with the fourth-seeded Anteaters in a contest that will be broadcast live on ESPN3. If ESPN3 is unavailable, there will also be an internet-only radio broadcast featuring Ryan Stanbury and Rheina Ale on the call with a link, as well as a live stats link, at GoMatadors.com.
Last week, CSUN defeated Long Beach State 52-49 in Long Beach to claim its first-ever Big West Conference regular season title. Bernadette Fong led CSUN with 12 points and added six rebounds off the bench in the victory. Cinnamon Lister scored 11 points, including three more 3-pointers, as the Matadors completed the season sweep of the 49ers for just the second time in program history.
UC Irvine enters Friday's contest coming off a 74-70 overtime win against UC Davis in the Big West Quarterfinals on Wednesday, Mar. 12. Senior forward Camille Buckley, a 2013-14 All-Big West First Team honoree, led the Anteaters with 34 points and 17 rebounds in the victory. Kelly Meggs scored 13 and Jennifer Tsurumoto added 11, including a basket to tie the game at the end of regulation, in the victory.
UCI defeated CSUN twice this year, scoring an 83-73 decision at The Matadome in January and a 76-72 win at The Bren Events Center. Buckley averaged 29.5 points and 18.5 rebounds per game in the two victories. Tsurumoto averaged 18.5 ppg and as a team, UCI shot 64 free throws to 26 for CSUN.
For the Matadors, Ashlee Guay averaged 26 points in the two meetings with UCI. She scored a career-high 32 points and knocked down a school-record eight 3-pointers in the January contest. Janae Sharpe averaged 14.5 ppg and Cinnamon Lister was at 10.5 ppg. CSUN made 24 3-pointers to just seven for the Anteaters in the two match-ups.
The winner between CSUN and UC Irvine will advance to the Big West Tournament Final on Saturday, March 15. The game will tip off at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Primeticket. The winner of the Big West Tournament receives the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
A Guay with Words -- Big West Player of the Year & All-Big West First Team
Junior Ashlee Guay has had a record-setting season for the Matadors in her third year with the squad, earning Big West Player of the Year and All-Big West First Team awards. She is the first Matador in school history to earn her conference's player of the year award. Originally from San Diego, Calif., Guay has set the program career records for steals and assists while also setting a single-game record for 3-pointers in a game. She dished out seven assists vs. UC Davis on Feb. 6 to set a new program all-time record and she currently has 373 and counting. She became the 10th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points when she finished with 13 at UC Riverside. Two days later, she finished with 26 in the overtime victory vs. Hawai'i and stands at eighth in school history with 1,162 points. She had a stellar weekend for CSUN in home games vs. UC Irvine and Long Beach State to earn her second Big West Player of the Week award this season. Against the Anteaters, she finished with a career-high 32 points on a school-record eight 3-pointers. Two days later, she posted 21 points and a career-high 10 rebounds for her second career double-double in a win over the 49ers. Earlier this season, Guay set a new school record for career steals when she recorded her second of four in the Matadors' win at UC Davis. For her career, Guay has 225 steals in 92 games for an average of 2.4 per contest and she owns the two top single-season marks (93, 91) in program history. Guay led the Matadors with 16 points and six assists in the win over USC to earn Big West Player of the Week honors. She is averaging 15.7 points per game, the best mark on the team and the sixth-best average in the Big West. Guay is also second the league in 3-point percentage at 41.6 percent from downtown.
Mighty Sharpe -- All-Big West Second Team
Junior Janae Sharpe rebounded sharply from a tough sophomore season to earn All-Big West Second Team honors for the second time in her career. She averaged 23 points and 6.5 rebounds in victories over Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside to help CSUN clinch a share of the league title and earn her second Big West Player of the Week award of the season. Before the season, Sharpe had never scored 20 or more points in a game; she now has three-such performances after the two last week. She scored a career-high 27 points in the Matadors' overtime victory against Hawai'i, knocking down a season-high eight field goals to go with a team-high eight boards. For the year, Sharpe is averaging 12.5 points and increased that average to 15.3 per game in conference play. Sharpe is second on the team lead with 114 assists and her 4.1 per-game average ranks fourth in the league. She averaged 17.5 points in the Matadors' victories over Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara, shooting 52.2 percent from the field while being called for just one foul in 70 minutes of action. That performance helped her earn Big West Player of the Week honors for the first time since her freshman season. In the middle of her third season, Sharpe is 266-of-355 (.749) from the stripe and is currently 85-of-119 on the year after knocking down a season-high 10 free throws vs. Long Beach State and at UC Riverside. Sharpe is also a tough defensive asset for CSUN, having amassed 121 career steals compared to just 112 career fouls.
CSUN's Secret Ingredient -- All-Big West Honorable Mention
Junior Cinnamon Lister returned to the court with vigor after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, earning All-Big West Honorable Mention honors. She has scored in double-figures 23 times this season and has led the team in scoring on 14 occasions. She has reached 20+ nine times this year after finishing with a team-high 25 points and a career-high seven 3-pointers in the home win vs. Cal State Fullerton. She also scored 25, including a career-high 10 field goals and five 3-pointers, in the win at Cal Poly. After knocking down two 3-pointers in the home win vs. UC Santa Barbara, Lister became CSUN's all-time single-season leader for 3-pointers in a season with 80 and counting. She scored a career-high 26 points at Oregon, 20 in a home win vs. Cal Poly, another 20 against Bakersfield and 23 in the win at UC Riverside. Against the Ducks, Lister drained a career-high six 3-pointers, She also posted 24 points in the victory at Clemson and finished with 20 vs. BYU and 21 at Washington State. She ranks second on the team and eighth in the Big West Conference at 15.4 points per game and leads the conference at 2.86 3's per game, among the best averages in Division I. Lister is also averaging 3.2 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
Mahl-Knechting the Dots -- Big West Defensive Player of the Year
Junior Camille Mahlknecht led the Big West Conference in blocks for the second-straight year en route to Big West Defensive Player of the Year honors. She finished with a season-high 21 points and a school-record 22 rebounds in the Matadors' home win against UC Santa Barbara. Two days earlier, she posted 10 points, seven rebounds and six blocks in CSUN's win at Cal Poly. The pair of performances helped her earn her first career Big West Player of the Week award and the Matadors' third player to receive the honor in the last five weeks. In CSUN's win at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 8, Mahlknecht blocked a school-record 11 shots and just missed a triple double with 14 rebounds and eight points. For the year, Mahlknecht is averaging 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. As of Mar. 9, Mahlknecht ranks 11th in Division I in blocks per game after checking in at 25th in her sophomore campaign. Earlier this season, she set a new school record in blocks by recording the 150th of her career in the contest vs. NAU. She has a career-high 93 blocks on the season and has surpassed 200 for her career. She also stands at eighth in school history with 585 career boards. A 6-3 center from Agoura, Calif., Mahlknecht has led the squad in rebounds 16 times this season.
Georgia on My Mind
Junior Randi Friess continues to make hustle plays in her third season on the team. She grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds to go with nine points off the bench in the home win vs. Cal State Fullerton. She matched a season best with 11 points at home vs. UC Davis and knocked down a season-high three 3-pointers in the contest. Friess grabbed nine rebounds in the home win against UC Santa Barbara, at UC Riverside and at Oregon. Friess dished out a career-high four assists to go along with a season-high nine points in the win at Clemson. Over her Matador career, Friess has averaged 3.7 points and 4.1 rebounds. Last year, she surpassed both figures by averaging 4.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. This season, she is averaging 3.8 points and 5.0 rebounds through 30 games.
The Bernadette Fong Show
Sophomore Bernadette Fong finished with a team-high 12 points in CSUN's win at Long Beach State. She posted 14 points and tied a career high with 11 rebounds in the win at UC Riverside, her second double-double of the year. She scored a career-high 16 points and seven field goals in the Matadors' victory at UC Santa Barbara and played a career-high 19 minutes and grabbed six rebounds in the victory over the Gauchos. For the season, Fong is averaging 6.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game and has scored in double figures six times. She posted 10 points on a career-high five field goals in 16 minutes vs. USC and produced the first double-double of her career in the game against Utah State, scoring 12 points, including a career-high four free throws, to go with 10 rebounds.
From Diamonds to Keys
Senior Mikayla Thielges continues to impress in her only season of Division I women's basketball. She is sixth on the team in rebounding at 3.9 per game and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds in the Matadors' victory at Georgia Southern. She also had a game-high 13 boards at Montana State and is averaging nearly two offensive rebounds per game. Thielges scored a career-high 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field in the game against Santa Clara. A pickup from the CSUN softball program, where she was a two-time All-Big West catcher, Thielges is also averaging 2.8 points per game on 53 percent shooting from the field.
Thou Shalt Steal
The Matadors have totaled 904 steals over the past two-plus seasons, an average of 9.7 per game. They finished second in the Big West in the 2011-12 season after recording 312 thefts. Last year, CSUN improved on that figure by posting 357 steals in 32 games, the 28th-best average in all of Division I women's hoops. Junior Ashlee Guay has led the league in steals in each of her first two seasons and set a new school record with her 214th career steal in the Matadors' win at UCD. Joining Guay is fellow junior Janae Sharpe, who has more career steals (121) than career fouls (112).
On the Rebound
The Matadors have grabbed 1,235 rebounds through 30 games, an average of 41.2 per contest. In the season opener, the Matadors set a new program record by grabbing 62 rebounds. Of that total, 23 boards came on the offensive glass and CSUN has 435 offensive rebounds for the year, an average of 14.5 per game. Individually, Camille Mahlknecht grabbed a school-record 22 rebounds in the home win against UCSB and her 12 offensive boards in the game also tied for the best mark in program history. She has led the Matadors in rebounding 16 times on the year. Mikayla Thielges grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds at Georgia Southern and had a game-high 13 rebounds while Bernadette Fong snared a career-high 11 rebounds at Montana State and UC Riverside.
Big Conference Hunting
The Matadors' victory against USC gave the program its third win ever against a Pac-12 opponent. The win also marked the second-straight year CSUN has downed a member of the league. Earlier, Northridge's win at Clemson was their first ever over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent. The win also represented a win vs. a BCS opponent for the third-straight season: West Virginia (Big East, 2011), UCLA (Pac-12, 2012), Clemson (ACC, 2013). The win over the Mountaineers was CSUN's first against a Big East foe and the upset over nationally ranked UCLA at Pauley Pavilion was Northridge's first win over a Pac-12 opponent since 1996.
Head East Young Women
The Matadors' victories at Clemson and Georgia Southern were CSUN's first wins in the Eastern Time Zone since a victory over Central Connecticut State in New York on Nov. 25, 1995. In fact, that victory over CCSU was at a neutral site, so the wins were CSUN's first true road victories in the Eastern Time Zone. The victories also represented the first time CSUN had won a pair of overnight road games since the 2004-05 season.