UC Davis and Cal State Northridge have a score to settle — again.
The two teams split their two regular-season contests last season, each winning at home, before meeting in the championship of the Big West conference tournament. Although UC Davis was the favorite not only as the top seed, but also as the preseason pick to win the conference, CSUN pulled off the upset to earn the Big West’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
This season, with CSUN topping the preseason coaches poll and UC Davis earning the No. 1 spot in the preseason media poll, it’s once again anyone’s game as the two teams face off in Northridge.
Both are 3-1 in Big West play this season, and both enter on two-game winning streaks. CSUN’s one loss came to UC Irvine, who UC Davis handily beat on Jan. 19, while UC Davis fell to Hawai’i in their second game, who CSUN dismantled defensively on Jan. 17. Part of the reason that tonight’s meeting is so intriguing is the existence of these inconsistencies between shared opponents — which version of each team will show up?
With CSUN winning the Northridge edition of this matchup last season, and home-court advantage playing a huge role already in Big West play, the first and most obvious edge goes to the Matadors. That said, CSUN needed overtime to take down the Aggies in last season’s home meeting, so a swift home victory is nowhere near a foregone conclusion.
Matchups like this in one-bid conferences are nothing if not an absolute grind. With a top seed in the Big West tournament already on the line, the team that wins this game will not only take over first place, but can also put themselves in a good position — even this early in the season — to grab that coveted postseason spot.
UC Davis Aggies (11-6, 3-1) at CSUN Matadors (9-9, 3-1)
When: Thursday, Jan. 24, at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Matador Gymnasium, Northridge, CA
How to watch: ESPN3
What to know: UC Davis’ Morgan Bertsch and CSUN’s Channon Fluker are 7th and 11th, respectively, on the all-time Big West career scoring list. Fluker, the reigning Big West Player of the Year, will be the next to reach a major milestone, as she is 124 points away from 2,000 career points.
Elsewhere in the Big West:
- UC Davis senior forward Morgan Bertsch is the Big West Player of the Week for the fourth time this season, the most of any player so far. Bertsch averaged 27 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.5 blocks in the Aggies’ two wins last week, including going a school-record 11-of-11 from the charity stripe against UC Irvine.
- Graduate student guard Serafina Maulupe became the 13th player in CSUN program history to hit 1,000 career points in the team’s win over Hawai’i on Jan. 17. Maulupe is also tied for first in CSUN career three-pointers with her assistant coach, 2015 grad Ashlee Guay.
- Cal State Fullerton is in the midst of a resurgence, hitting 10 wins for the first time since the 2014-15 season. The 1990-91 Titans squad was the only other in school history to reach 10 wins faster, and their 25-win effort earned them an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.