UCLA forward Atonye Nyingifa grabs a rebound during the second half of a… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
It was a night of history for the Cal State Northridge women's basketball program.
The Matadors beat No. 12 UCLA, 77-72, on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion, the first time they've defeated a ranked team in their Division I history. And it was their first victory against UCLA, having lost nine previous times to the Bruins.
In fact, it was the Matadors' first victory against a Pac-12 conference team since 1996.
"We knew this was going to be like a Super Bowl to them," UCLA Coach Cori Close said. "Jason Flowers [of Northridge] is a great coach and he's an alum of UCLA. We knew they had every reason to play up for this game."
Cal State Northridge (6-4) hit 10 three-pointers -- led by freshman forward Marta Masoni's six threes. The Matadors started four sophomores and Masoni, who is from Taranto, Italy. One of the sophomores, guard Ashlee Guay was game-high with 28 points, going nine for 14 from the field, and Masoni had 18 points.
"Today is obviously a big day for our program, but it's a big day for the young women in our program, the people who have put in a lot of work and have to put up with me on more days than they wanted to," said Flowers, who played for the Bruins.
The only other loss suffered by UCLA (7-2) this season was to Notre Dame, which is now ranked No. 5 in the country. They held a 47-31 edge in rebounding but committed 25 turnovers.
Senior forward Alyssia Brewer had another double-double, scoring 14 points and adding 12 rebounds, which was her fifth consecutive double-double. Freshman guard Nirra Fields came off the bench and had 13 points, including three three-pointers.
Not only did Close feel things were slightly amiss this week in practice, she picked up on some bothersome signs even in winning the St. John's Holiday Classic over the weekend in New York.
"The reality was they were ready to get better and ready to compete tonight, and we were, I felt, already on Christmas break mentally," Close said.
UCLA is off until Dec. 28 when it plays at Pepperdine. Northridge's next game is at Oklahoma on Dec. 29.
"We can't do anything about it now," Close said. "We have every choice in the world to respond appropriately. That will be to the extent whether it's detrimental or a blessing in disguise.
"...I really put a lot on our players to go home and look in the mirror. There's no pointing fingers, and that includes me as the head coach."