Sin City Beckons as Matadors Participate in UNLV's The Desert Draw Tournament

Dec. 17, 2008

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

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The Cal State Northridge women's basketball team (1-8) heads to Las Vegas this weekend to participate in UNLV's The Desert Draw. At the tournament, the Matadors will first place the host Rebels on Dec. 19 at 3:30 p.m., and will then return to the court the next day for a meeting with either Southern Mississippi or No. 23 Oklahoma State.

Northridge is no doubt eager to get back on the court, as it has been over a week since its last contest, a 68-29 loss at Fresno State. Against the Bulldogs, junior Katrina Thompson set a new season high with eight rebounds.

Senior Tonicia Tademy continues to lead the Big West Conference in assists-per-game, pacing the league with a 4.7 average. She also checks in at third in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.11.

Teaming with Tademy in the backcourt is another senior, Ashley Blake, who checks in at fifth in the Big West Conference with an average of 2.9 assists-per-game. The duo has helped Northridge rank second in the league with 13.7 apg.

Blake also has been the team's best long-range shooter, hitting 12 3-pointer on the season for an average of 1.3 per game, the ninth-best figure in the conference. She is averaging a career-high 6.4 points in the Matadors' first nine contests.

Sophomore Analee Viena-Lota continues to lead the Matadors in scoring and rebounding, averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. She ranks eighth in the league with an average of 4.4 defensive rebounds per game.

Entering the weekend, Northridge is shooting 34.2 percent from the field and 26.7 percent 3-point range. The Matadors are averaging 35.6 rebounds per contest and are shooting 62.6 percent from the free throw line.

The competition in Sin City will be some of the toughest the Matadors have faced in the 2008-09 season, as both Southern Mississippi and Oklahoma State are coming off 20-win seasons a year ago and the Cowgirls remain in the national polls with a 5-2 record.

The Rebels of Las Vegas are the tournament's host and Northridge's first opponent in The Desert Draw. UNLV has lost three of its last four after dropping a 91-54 decision at Oregon State on Dec. 15. Jamie Smith and Brittany Halberg each scored 13 points in the defeat to the Beavers.

Shamela Hampton is the team's leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest. Erica Helms is the other Rebel to average in double figures, scoring 11.9 ppg. Through eight games, UNLV is shooting 40.3 percent from the field compared to 39.1 percent for its opponents. The Rebels are averaging 39.0 rebounds per contest compared to 45.8 for their opponents.

Kathy Olivier is in her first year as the head coach at UNLV after spending the past 15 years at UCLA. She played her college ball for UNLV. She was also CSUN associate head coach Carla Houser's head coach when Houser played for the Bruins.

Southern Mississippi arrives in Las Vegas carrying a 5-5 mark. The Golden Eagles dropped their last game, a 72-61 decision against Mississippi State. Kendra Reed had a team-high 16 points in the defeat, while Amber Eugene led USM with seven rebounds.

Pauline Love is the team's leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 13.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Stephanie Helgeson is the other Golden Eagle averaging in double-figures, posting 11.2 points per game. USM is shooting 43.7 percent from the field and 31.0 percent from 3-point range for the season. USM is also averaging 21.5 turnovers per game.

Joye Lee-McNeils is in her fifth season as the head coach of Southern Mississippi and owns a 64-68 record with the Golden Eagles. Northridge and Southern Mississippi have never met in women's basketball.

The 23rd-ranked Cowgirls are the final team competing in Las Vegas over the weekend. Oklahoma State has won five of its last six games, including a 58-48 victory over Oral Roberts on Dec. 16. Tegan Cunningham led OSU with 16 points and Andrea Riley scored 14 in the victory.

Riley is the team's leading scorer, averaging 20.4 points per game in addition to 4.6 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. Cunningham checks in at second with an average of 13.4 ppg, while Shaunte Smith and Kristina Hernandez are also averaging in double-figures with 11.3 and 10.9 ppg, respectively. Smith is the team's top rebounder at 8.6 per game.

Kurt Budke is the head coach of Oklahoma State, currently in his fourth season with the program and has a 58-43 record with the Cowgirls. CSUN and OSU have never met in women's basketball.

Following the trip to Las Vegas, the Matadors have a quick turnaround, hosting Eastern Washington on Dec. 22. The Eagles will take on Northridge in The Matadome starting at 5 p.m. with Dave Caldwell providing play-by-play coverage on gomatadors.com.

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