By Steven Barker
On Saturday, March 2, the CSUB women’s basketball team steamrolled the University of New Orleans Privateers 85-55. As part of Senior Day’s festivities, seniors Amber Williams, Ciarra Ford and Lauren Carter were honored prior to the game. Williams will be ending her career as the second highest scorer in CSUB history.
Having dropped into Division 3 three years ago and accustomed to weaker competition, the Privateers were thoroughly dominated in every respect by the ‘Runners. Defensively, the ‘Runners stifled UNO’s offense. Aggressive defense by freshman Alyssa Shannon and redshirt sophomore Tyonna Outland on the perimeter forced 25 turnovers from the Privateers and limited UNO to 20 points in the first half. The interior presence of redshirt sophomore Janae Coffee and freshman Batabe Zempare further stalled the Privateers’ offense, forcing them to shoot 37 percent from the court.
Offensively, the ‘Runners’ superior size and athleticism presented a catch-22 for the Privateers; either commit to the perimeter and be exploited in the post or commit to defending the paint and be exposed from behind the 3-point line. Much to the chagrin of the Privateers, the ‘Runners exploited both options.
The ‘Runners’ fluid ball movement created frequent lapses in the Privateers’ defense, leading to easy perimeter shots. Williams, exploiting open spaces beyond the arc, drained two 3-pointers in the first half, forcing the Privateers to defend the 3-point line. In the following possessions, Coffee punished the Privateers for their weak interior defense, recording six points in the first half and helping to extend the ‘Runners’ lead from 10-4 with 16:19 remaining in the first half to 45-20 at the end of the first half.
The second half was an extension of the ‘Runners’ first half dominance. The Privateers, desperate for a defensive stop, were continually exploited both on the perimeter and in the paint. Zempare recorded both a game-high and career-high 16 rebounds. Williams continually exploited weaknesses in the Privateers’ perimeter defense, making four 3-pointers and extending the CSUB lead to a game-high 28 points. Williams finished with 20 points to lead all scorers, and the ‘Runners never trailed throughout the game.
With the win, the ‘Runners improve to a 95-3 all-time record when holding opponents below 60 points. The win ends the ‘Runners’ regular season with a 12-17 record, an accomplishment ‘Runners head coach Greg McCall beamed about.
“We started off [the season] pretty shaky there, and we had a great nine game win streak, and we capped it off today,” said McCall. The nine game win streak that began against Nevada on Jan. 5 and ended with a loss to New Mexico State on Feb. 23 is a CSUB record for the longest consecutive win streak for women’s hoops. The previous record was eight consecutive wins.
“One of the big changes [we made] was our players’ attitude, and it had to start with me. I came in – Jan. 1 was our goal. I was like ‘Hey, we’re going to start this season off like it’s a brand new season. We’re going to start it off 0-0. Our record is 0-0 right now.’ We started off with Fresno State and we played really hard, but we didn’t play smart enough to win the game. So we started off 0-1. Then we went up to Reno, Nevada, and came out with a three point win there, and that’s where the record started. We kept it rolling from there.”
For Williams, the victory made her career turn full-circle. “I’m just really blessed to have been able to make those records, and hopefully we can make the postseason,” said Williams.
After the game, Ford reflected on her development as a player and leader of the women’s basketball team: “It took me awhile to fit in and know my role here. But playing for coach McCall, he kept talking to me and kept giving – he had faith in me to learn my role, and now I’m one of the leaders of this team.”
“I’m really proud of [Ford and Williams],” said McCall. “I’m looking forward to seeing them in the future, doing some great things.”