While many students have and will be tested this week and next week in the classroom, the 49ers’ biggest test this year comes in the form of the San Diego Toreros.
Although The Beach is coming out of the ASU Classic with a loss to Arizona State that broke a five-game win streak, the ‘Niners will return to the friendly confines of the Walter Pyramid, where they have a 3-0 record at home.
The Toreros will head up the I-405 with an unblemished record of 9-0 looking to hand LBSU loss No. 1 at the Pyramid. San Diego continued its perfect preseason with a 79-56 win over Seattle this past Sunday. It was the Toreros’ fifth game of the last six in which they outscored their opponent by 20 or more.
Head coach Jody Wynn admits that handing San Diego its first loss of the season won’t be easy.
“We’d have to do a lot,” she said. “They’ve been shooting the ball extremely well from the field and the three-point line, and they’re a great rebounding team. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, but we’re excited about the opportunity.”
San Diego has a strong core of upperclassmen and underclassmen that yields four players who average double figures. Senior guard Amy Kame is the Torero’s leading scorer at 13.6 points and 3.7 assists per contest.
Sophomore guard Malina Hood, whose twin sister Mia is her teammate, has a team-high 17 threes on 40 percent shooting from long distance and is currently averaging 11.1 points per game. Katelyn McDaniel has been a force to reckon with down low for San Diego, averaging a team-high seven boards a game to go along with 10.2 points a contest.
The Friday night matchup is the first of a season-long, four-game homestand that starts with San Diego and finishes with the Beach Classic on Dec. 20.
A key piece to the 49ers’ recent success has been freshman Raven Benton, who was sidelined late in the game last Sunday because of an injury. But despite the setback, the 49ers’ most consistent freshman was named the Big West Conference player of the week.
Benton opened the tournament with her second game of the season in 21 minutes of action off the bench, being a key contributor against Harvard in the 23-point come-from-behind win.
“She’s been able to be a good performer for us because of her size and her strength,” Wynn said. “She welcomes the contact. Not only can she score it, but she gets herself to the free-throw line. Great scorers usually have a knack for getting to the line, and Raven does that.”
The Federal Way, Wash., native jumped into the starting lineup for the championship game against ASU and was limited in terms of minutes but made good use of her time on the court, scoring 16 points in 13 minutes. Benton was the first freshman in the Big West to earn the achievement this year.
Benton and her teammates hope to keep their win streak alive at home while the Toreros seek win No. 10. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Friday-the-13th matchup.