For Cal State Northridge, entering California Collegiate Athletic Assn. play would be frightening enough if it were at full strength.
The NCAA's Division II women's basketball champion, Cal Poly Pomona, is anxious to defend its crown. The rest of the conference, half of which is ranked in the top 10 nationally, is also ready for action.
Before Saturday night's 70-57 nonconference win over Missouri Kansas City, CSUN perhaps thought it could buy some more time in preparing for the CCAA challenge.
Going into the game, the Lady Matadors had lost two straight, including a sloppy exhibition loss to the University of Victoria, British Columbia, in which they committed 31 turnovers.
On Saturday, CSUN was much improved, rallying for the win from a seven-point deficit.
CSUN will travel to Azusa Pacific on Wednesday to wrap up its non-conference schedule before opening CCAA play at home on Saturday against Chapman.
"This was a perfect win for us," CSUN Coach Leslie Milke said. "We beat a good team tonight, and that's what makes it so important. We needed to know that we could beat a good team."
Kansas City (13-4) entered the game with a five-game win streak and a No. 6 national ranking in the NAIA.
Northridge (9-2) trailed, 25-18, late in the first half and was behind, 27-21, at halftime. But CSUN forced 14 turnovers in the second half and limited the Lady Kangaroos to only two field goals in the final 12 minutes.
The Lady Matadors, who had shot only 35% (8 of 23) in the first half, made 17 of 33 shots from the field in the second.
Reserve guard Lori Costello scored only two points in the first half, but opened up Northridge's running game in the second, pacing the comeback with 13 points. She finished with a game-high 15 points.
"I thought we played much better defense in the second half," said Costello, who is also an All-American in track. "But the key was that we started running. Personally, I think I play better when I'm running, and it opens up a lot more for us when we do run."
Teammate Renee Loch scored 13 points, and Denise Sitton and Tara Flanagan each had 12.
All-America forward Stephanie Worthy scored 10 for the Lady Kangaroos before fouling out with 5:54 left in the game. Worthy, a junior, also had 10 rebounds and five assists. Forward Janet Boeckman scored 10 points.
MISSOURI-KANSAS CITY--Worthy 10 and 10 rebounds; Boeckman 10; Wright 9; Puckett 8; Wilcox 6; Roseburr 4; Lee 6; McCall 4.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE--O'Hara 8; Flanagan 12; Sitton 12; Loch 13; Costello 15; Middleton 4; Mallett 2; Enright 4.