Five days after suffering its first conference loss of the season to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), the women’s basketball team is back to its winning ways. In the first game of the conference playoffs Feb. 22, Chapman routed California Lutheran University 75-22 at home. The win sets up a rematch from last season’s conference championship against CMS, to which Chapman lost 65-54.
“It feels absolutely great,” said senior guard Jaime Hum-Nishikado. “This is what we’ve been striving for all season.”
Since Chapman’s first year in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in the 2012-13 season, it has lost 10 of its 14 games against CMS, including six of seven at CMS. Chapman has never beaten CMS in a conference playoff game.
“We want (to beat CMS) so bad,” Hum-Nishikado said. “When we heard that it was CMS, we were like, yup, we’re ready to take it back at their place and do it how it’s supposed to be done and beat them this time.”
Sophomore forward Lucy Criswell led the Panthers with a career-high 31 points from against Cal Lutheran, but she said she had no idea she’d scored more than 20 points.
Criswell, who scored her second fewest conference points of the season in Chapman’s 67-58 loss to CMS, said that playing with energy will be crucial for Chapman in the conference championship.
“Last time when they killed us, we came out really flat,” Criswell said. “We didn’t have any energy, we were playing timid. We were holding back.”
Despite snapping a 15-game win streak that – following a coin toss that fell in favor of CMS – caused Chapman to lose home court advantage, the loss was a wakeup call, Criswell said.
“They exposed things that we really needed to work on,” Criswell said. “I think it was good, it put us in our place a little bit. We realized that anyone can beat us, so we need to always bring our A game.”
That “A game” was apparent against Cal Lutheran. Chapman outrebounded its opponents by eight, had 11 more assists, shot 12 percent better from the field and shot nearly 30 percent better from three-point range.
“They took advantage of us from the beginning,” said Cal Lutheran head coach Lindsay Samaniego. “Chapman did a great job of exploiting every mistake that we made and knocking down shots when they were open and they came to play.”
Head coach Carol Jue said her team played with passion, something she said it will need to have against CMS in the conference championship. Against CMS, Jue’s expectations are simple.
“If it’s by one point, that’s fine,” Jue said. “As long as it’s a win.”
Chapman will play at CMS at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 in the conference championship.