In front of an empty Walter Pyramid, Taylor Turney’s scoring led CSUF women’s basketball to a 67-52 win over Cal State Northridge in the first round of the Big West Tournament.
The game, along with the rest of the Big West women’s and men’s basketball tournaments, barred fans from attending as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The Fullerton players were disappointed that fans could not attend the game. Turney told her family coming from Las Vegas they could not attend the game, but said her team rallied together and relied on each other for support.
“We believed in each other this whole time. So this is who’s going to be in the room. This is who we do it for. So this is all we need,” Turney said.
— Cal State Fullerton (@csuf) March 11, 2020
With the win, the Titans advanced to the quarterfinals where they will face Hawaii, who had a bye in the tournament’s first round as the fourth seed. The Titans finished the regular season as the sixth seed after they were picked to finish last in the conference and miss the Big West Tournament in preseason polls, something CSUF head coach Jeff Harada has not forgotten.
“We weren’t even supposed to be here tonight and we showed that we belong here,” Harada said.
CSUF came into the game on a two-game losing streak to Long Beach State and UC Irvine to conclude the regular season. The two losses squandered a chance for the Titans to clinch the two seed in the tournament and not have to play until the semifinals on Friday. Instead, they now have to win four games in five days for an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. Harada encourages his team to not linger on the missed opportunity and focus on what is right in front of them.
“You got to forget about last week, the past and the rest of the regular season and take one game at a time. All that matters is today,” Harada said.
It was Fullerton’s first victory this season over the Matadors as CSUN won both matchups in the regular season. Despite the difference in results, Harada said the game plan was not anything different and that his team just executed.
“We didn’t change anything that we normally do. We did the same things that we do all season long,” Harada said. “The biggest thing I think is we just played basketball.”
However, CSUN head coach Jason Flowers believed the Titans’ leading scorer made the difference.
“It was Taylor Turney,” Flowers said. “To me, she was the difference in the game.”
Turney led the Titans with 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting. She went 3-for-3 from the 3-point line and 4-for-6 from the free throw line. With her team trailing at the start of the second quarter, Turney gave her team a spark, scoring five straight points to tie the game, and CSUN failed to retake the lead at any point the rest of the game.
Big West Player of the Year Raina Perez recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 assists, one less assist than the entire CSUN team. Despite a rough first half where she shot 1-for-7 and 0-for-4 from the three-point line, Perez bounced back with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting in the second half.
“I was just looking for my teammates when I’m not there. I know they’ll pick me up regardless if my shots are falling or not,” Perez said.
Aimee Book also had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Big West Best Hustle Player Carolyn Gill chipped in 10 points.
Meghann Henderson led CSUN with 15 points and seven rebounds, but she shot 4-for-15 from the field. Lauren Shymkewicz and De’Jionae Calloway also chipped in 12 points each for the Matadors.
The Titans shot 43.8% from the field while CSUN shot 32.7%. The teams were nearly matched in rebounding as the Titans had 39 and the Matadors had 38. The Matadors turned the ball over 13 times, which the Titans converted into 13 points. Fullerton dominated the interior with 32 points in the paint to the Matador’s 18.
The Titans next play Hawaii tonight at the Walter Pyramid. The game starts at 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN 3. The teams split the regular season series, with both teams winning on their home court.