In bat­tle of NCAA Tour­na­ment teams, de­fend­ing Big West cham­pion Cal State Northridge no match for Boise State

The Idaho Statesman - - Sports - BY RACHEL ROBERTS rroberts@ida­hostates­man.com

Coach Gordy Pres­nell had quite the dilemma go­ing into the 2018-19 Boise State women’s bas­ket­ball sea­son.

Judg­ing by the sea­son opener, it doesn’t ap­pear he’s any closer to solv­ing it.

All 12 el­i­gi­ble Bron­cos got on the court Thurs­day night, and 10 of them scored, in Boise State’s 74-63 vic­tory over de­fend­ing Big West cham­pion Cal State Northridge at Taco Bell Arena.

That bal­ance will make divvy­ing up play­ing time a lot harder for Pres­nell and his staff as the sea­son con­tin­ues.

“We have some kids who have played in a lot of big games,” Pres­nell said. “But we’ve al­ways tried to give ev­ery­one a chance and then squeeze (the play­ing time) down as the sea­son goes on.”

Se­niors Marta Her­mida and Joyce Har­rell each made their case for more ac­tion. Her­mida led the Bron­cos with 16 points — in­clud­ing four 3-point­ers on seven at­tempts — and Har­rell pulled down a ca­reer-high 11 re­bounds.

Her­mida started all 33 games for the Bron­cos last sea­son and earned a spot on the All-Moun­tain West team, but the guard from Madrid, Spain, still felt there were as­pects of her game that had to im­prove.

“I al­ways strug­gle with the threes. That was one thing on my game that I had to im­prove,” Her­mida said. “I’ve been work­ing on that.”

On a guard-heavy ros­ter, Har­rell is slated to play an im­por­tant role in­side as the Bron­cos await the re­turn of red­shirt se­nior cen­ter Mar­ijke Van­der­schaaf from a torn ACL.

De­spite a size dis­ad­van­tage, the 6-foot Har­rell, a more nat­u­ral fit at for­ward, held her own against Northridge’s Chan­non Fluker. The 6-4 cen­ter is a twotime Big West Player of the Year and was re­cently named to the Lisa Les­lie Award watch list, which rec­og­nizes the top cen­ters in women’s NCAA Di­vi­sion I col­lege bas­ket­ball.

“Joyce Har­rell did an out­stand­ing job,” Pres­nell said. “... (Fluker) still had great stats, but I think we re­ally did a good job on her in terms of the de­sign and what Joyce was able to ac­com­plish.”

Boise State (1-0) built an 8-0 lead within the open­ing 1:30 against the Mata­dors (0-2), and the Bron­cos pushed that ad­van­tage to as many as 20 points near the start of the fourth quar­ter in a matchup be­tween two de­fend­ing con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons that played in the

NCAA Tour­na­ment last sea­son.

“It’s a great win for our team even though we didn’t play well down the stretch of the game,” Pres­nell said. “They have a great chance of win­ning the Big West and go­ing back to the NCAAs. It’ll be an RPI game for us for sure.”

Ju­nior for­ward A’Shanti Cole­man was the only other Bronco in dou­ble dig­its with 11 points, while fel­low ju­niors Ri­ley Lupfer and Braydey Hod­gins added nine and eight points, re­spec­tively. Har­rell, Sofia Galeron and Jade Loville chipped in with six points apiece.

“We al­ways have dif­fer­ent peo­ple who can step up,” Har­rell said. “Just know­ing you have so many dif­fer­ent threats is a good feel­ing.”

Pres­nell has two more home games to tin­ker with his lineup be­fore the Bron­cos host per­haps the big­gest reg­u­lar sea­son game in pro­gram his­tory. No. 5 Louisville — a 2018 Fi­nal Four qual­i­fier — comes to Taco Bell Arena on Mon­day, Nov. 19. The Car­di­nals de­feated BSU in the first round of the NCAA tour­ney in March.

“We have to play with a lit­tle more con­fi­dence and that hoop’s got to get a lit­tle bit big­ger,” Pres­nell said. “...We have some re­ally tough games down the road.”

Note: Pres­nell said fresh­man guard Mag­gie Free­man of Beaver­ton, Ore­gon, will red­shirt the 2018-19 sea­son.

ERIC TOR­RES GARCIA Boise State Photo Ser­vi­cies

Ju­nior for­ward A’Shanti Cole­man had 11 points, six re­bounds and three blocked shots in Boise State’s 74-63 vic­tory over Cal State Northridge on Thurs­day at Taco Bell Arena.

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