November 12, 2008

Northridge Women's Basketball Opens 2008-09 Season at Rice, Prairie View A&M

Nov. 12, 2008

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

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The Cal State Northridge women's basketball team opens its 2008-09 season this weekend with a pair of games in the Lone Star State. First up for the Matadors is a meeting with the Rice Owls on Friday at 7 p.m. (CST), followed by a game against the Prairie View A&M Panthers on Sunday at 2 p.m. (CST).

In its two exhibition games, Northridge witnessed several impressive performances as the season opens. Newcomer Kayla Rutherford scored a game-high 23 points in the game against Love and Basketball, including a game-high four 3-pointers. Another newcomer, freshman Bridgette Conejo, added 6.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in the two contests.

Among the returning players, head coach Staci Schulz saw junior Katrina Thompson and sophomore Analee Viena-Lota record double-doubles against Love and Basketball and The Master's College, respectively. Both players finished with a stat line of 10 points and 15 rebounds. Thompson averaged 13.0 rebounds over the two contests.

The senior class also fared well in the exhibition games, as Ashley Blake averaged 12.5 points and shot 42.9 percent from 3-point range in the two contests. Fellow guard Tonicia Tademy added 9.0 assists per game in the two contests and averaged 8.0 points. Finally, senior Whitney Ligon finished as the team's third-leading scorer in the exhibition contests, averaging 10.0 points in the two games.

Northridge out-rebounded its two exhibition oppents, 90-79, and grabbed 47 offensive rebounds to its opponents' 24. CSUN must limit its fouls against the Owls and Panthers, as the two exhibition opponents shot 68 free throws, 46 more than the Matadors attempted.

Hailing from Conference USA, the Owls of Rice University are the Matadors' first opponent in the 2008-09 season. Last year, Rice finished 14-16 overall and 6-10 in league play for a sixth-place finish. The team returns three starters and seven letterwinners from last year's squad.

The Owls played one exhibition game so far, defeating Houston Baptist, 81-56. Candace Ashford came off the bench to score a team-high 13 points and grab 10 rebounds. Maudess Fulton was the other Owl to reach double figures in the win, hitting for 10 points.

Rice defeated Northridge, 81-55, last season at The Matadome. Senior Whitney Ligon scored 10 points for the Matadors in the defeat while fellow senior Ashley Blake added six points and four assists off the bench for CSUN. Rice leads the all-time series, 2-0.

For the first time in school history, the Matadors will face the Panthers of Prairie View A&M on Sunday, Nov. 16. Last year, the Panthers finished 22-12 overall and 15-3 in the Southwest Athletic Conference for a first place finish. They lost by two in the SWAC tourament to another future Matador opponent, Jackson State, and were eliminated in the first round of the WNIT by Texas State.

Junior forward Gaati Werema is the team's top returning leading scorer after averaging 14.5 ppg last year. She nearly missed a double-double by averaging 9.9 rpg. Senior Chari Smith posted 14.1 ppg and 8.4 rpg last year while junior Candice Thomas averaged 11.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.

Following the Texas trip, CSUN returns to The Matadome for a pair of non-conference games. On Nov. 19, the Matadors host San Diego at 7 p.m., followed by a meeting with Cal State Bakersfield on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m.