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Colorado State Tops Northridge Women

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Anyone watching the late-night ESPN2 telecast must have thought she or he was dreaming.

Cal State Northridge, a team that suffered the humiliation of its coach being arrested for distributing crack cocaine, a team that a few years ago was ranked among the worst five NCAA Division I teams, took it to Colorado State for 36 minutes.

But the game lasts 40 and the Matadors finally succumbed to logic, form and the shooting of underrated Katie Cronin, 71-59, before 8,741 Friday night in an NCAA West Regional first-round women’s basketball game at Moby Arena.

How close did upstart Northridge come to becoming the first 15th-seeded team to win since the women’s tournament went to a 64-team format in 1994?

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The Matadors extended its lead to 55-48 with 5:50 to play on a jumper by Neda Milic. But with the crowd roaring louder with every basket, No. 2-seeded and seventh-ranked Colorado State (32-2) scored the next 19 points.

Cronin plays in the shadow of All-American guard Becky Hammon, but the senior forward made a three-point basket to put the Rams ahead for good, 56-55, then scored six points in a span of 1:30 to put it away.

“Cronin made the shots in the last few minutes that they missed earlier in the game,” Northridge Coach Frozena Jerro said. “A couple of our players were fatigued, I’m sure, but we battled hard.”

Hammon dropped the hammer on Northridge as well, making four of 13 field goals and 16 of 20 free throws en route to 27 points. Cronin had 19 points.

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The Matadors (21-8), who have no seniors, are left with more than their NCAA commemorative watches. The entire team that won the Big Sky Conference season and tournament championships will return.

“We will have a lot of experience,” point guard Tina Greer said. “Until the last few minutes, I don’t think anybody who didn’t know better wouldn’t have been able to say which was the second-seeded team and which was the 15th-seeded team.”

Reserve center Viveca Lof scored 12 points and Edniesha Curry, Northridge’s All-Big Sky guard, added 11 points.

Northridge harassed the Rams into 33.9% shooting, but blew numerous chances with bad passes and traveling violations. The Matadors committed 25 turnovers.

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To the astonishment of the sellout crowd chanting C-S-U (they couldn’t have meant Cal State University, could they?), Northridge came out hustling, extended its lead to 12-5 on a three-pointer by Lof and didn’t give up the advantage until 3:20 remained in the half.

Lof, a center from Sweden who had made one three-point basket all season, answered Hammon’s three-pointer that tied the score, 21-21, with her second of the game and it put Northridge back on top with four minutes left in the half.

Less than a minute later, a free throw by Hammon gave the Rams their first lead, 25-24, but Northridge didn’t crumble. Natalia Jonas made two free throws to wrestle back the lead, and Lynda Amari followed a Colorado State basket with a bank shot for Northridge’s last lead of the half, 28-27.


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