The start of the regular season starts Tuesday for CSUF women’s basketball as they go on the road to take on Seattle University.
The Titans prepped for the season opener with an exhibition game against Concordia on Nov. 1, beating the Eagles 69-54.
Head coach Jeff Harada said he believes that playing against other competition prior to the season helps the team find what its strengths are and what parts of its game needs improvement.
“It’s always good to play against someone else, get those jitters out,” Harada said.
The Titans had an overall record of 8-21 last season and went 3-13 during conference play. Both records were improvements from the previous two seasons and the most wins since the 2014 season.
Harada, who will begin his second season as head coach, felt good about the gameplay saying offensively, the team had done well. However, he did note there were moments in the game that could use some improvement, such as the negative effect of missed shots for the team on the defensive end.
“My one thing was I didn’t like how a lot of those missed shots kind of changed our defensive attitude a little bit. We kind of got frustrated because we weren’t making shots and it affected us defensively. So we had some mental breakdowns and that can’t happen,” Harada said.
Last season, the Titans held their opponents to an average of 65 points per game.
Harada also acknowledged the importance of center Daeja Smith’s presence on the court, noting how the offense is geared toward getting her the ball down at the post because of how dominant she can be.
Smith, a redshirt senior, had a double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Smith also filled up the stat sheet with an assist, a block and a steal for the night.
Last season, Smith averaged 12.5 points in nonconference games, while averaging 13.1 points during conference play, the highest averages of anyone on the team. These stats led to Smith earning a spot on the Big West Preseason Coaches All-Conference Team and Preseason Media All-Conference Team.
Smith knew there was still work that needed to be done this offseason to keep improving her game.
“I felt like I needed to be more focused on the court and start the game off correctly instead of having a later start, because I felt like I started off slow, but now I feel like with the game you have to be more focused, mentally tough and that has to go throughout the whole game,” Smith said.
She was selected to the Lisa Leslie Award preseason watch list in October, which recognizes the top 20 centers in NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball.
“I think it’s more of an honor to be on that but I can’t do it without my teammates. They get me the ball and I score, it’s like a mutual thing and it was a great feeling but I just like to really play basketball,” Smith said.
Guard Jade Vega also returns to the Titan lineup. Vega led the team in minutes and assists per game last season. She also averaged a career high 10.7 points per game.
The Titans were picked to finish last in the Big West this year in both the coach’s and media polls.
Harada said that though there are some teams that are better than others in the Big West, it is still a league where anyone can win on any given night.
“It’s critical for any team, especially for us as we’re learning how to win, as we turn this program around, establishing our identity and building the culture or environment of what we want,” said Harada.
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