HAYWARD -- The surging Cal State East Bay women's basketball team enters Thursday's California Collegiate Athletic Association showdown against visiting Chico State riding a nine-game winning streak.

The fourth-place Pioneers (15-9, 13-7 CCAA) will conclude the regular season against visiting Cal State Stanislaus on Friday. Both games will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Cal State East Bay only trails third-place Cal State Monterey Bay by one game in the standings.

Pioneers coach Suzy Barcomb credits defense and depth as the key reasons for the team's emergence after a sluggish start to the season

"There's a couple of factors than have gone into it," she said. "One is the athletes understand their roles a little bit better. We've had some pretty dynamic bench play, and I think the key for us is they've really brought into the defensive scheme that we've been running."

The Pioneers boast the top-ranked defense in the CCAA, holding opponents to under 50 points a game. Chico State has the top-ranked offense in the conference.

Brianna Terrance, who was recently named CCAA Player of the Week for her play against Cal Poly Pomona and Humboldt State, has been the Pioneers' leading scorer during the winning streak averaging 10.6 points per game.

The Pioneers are coming off wins over CCAA co-leader UC San Diego 59-44, in which Marlene MacMillan had 14 points and seven rebounds, and Cal State San Bernardino 42-39 last week.

In January, the Pioneers lost to Chico State 56-50 and beat Cal State Stanislaus 53-35.