The PLNU women’s basketball team improved to 3-0 after beating Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) on Saturday night by a score of 80-67.
The win came on a night when the team’s leading scorer, sophomore Roya Rustamzada –who came in as the top scorer in the PacWest at 23 points per game-, finished the first half going 0-4 from the field. The Sea Lions responded by picking up the scoring through a balanced attack from junior Madison West, sophomore Alex Brunk and junior Sydney Tonack.
After leading for most of the game, however, the Sea Lions found them- selves with their backs against the wall as NNU pulled within four points with about four minutes remaining in the game. The team was able to pull away after changing their initial defensive scheme of a 2-3 zone, which was used for the majority of the game.
West said the win was instrumental for the success of the team as they progress through the season.
“I would say critical,” said West. “It came down pretty close and we obviously needed to step up in the end.
We switched to man [man-to-man defense]; we really wanted to get those deflections in and take their post- moves away. So I think going man was smart. In those last five minutes, it was just critical that we did not foul and get to the free-throw line more and we just played well.”
Their successful start to this season is in polar contrast to last year. After playing eight games, the Sea Lions posted a 1-7 record. At one point during that stint, the team shot an abysmal 27.9% from the field against California State University, Los Angeles and made many costly turnovers.
However, this season has been a different story thus far.
“I just think that we’re ready,” said Rustamzada. “We’re hungry, we felt that we could’ve done so much better last season. We’re coming back as a new team, we all know each other. We know how we play and I think other teams still underestimate us; and we’re gladly proving them wrong.”
For 17-year head coach Bill Westphal, who is coaching the last season of his career, the key to this season’s early success has been the audacious nature of the roster after beating the number one ranked team in the country in last year’s NCAA West Regional tournament.