A former Bruins player, Flowers noted the "glitz and glamour" but said the building still has the old aura. Flowers then channeled some of that spirit in the biggest win in program history.
Ashlee Guay scored a career-high 25 points and freshman Marta Masoni made a season-high six 3-pointers as Cal State Northridge upset No.12 UCLA 77-72 on Thursday night.
Masoni's sixth 3-pointer from five feet beyond the arc gave Cal State Northridge (6-4) a 70-66 lead with 1:20 remaining and Guay made four free throws to push it to 74-68 lead with 39.1 seconds to go.
UCLA (7-2) pulled to 74-71 on a 3-pointer by Nirra Fields before the Matadors made four free throws down the stretch to snap a five-game winning streak by the Bruins.
It was Cal State Northridge's first victory against a ranked team in its Division I history and its first win against a Pac-12 team since 1996. Guay said Flowers implored them from the start.
"He built up our confidence," Guay said. "He told us that we can do this. I don't think we knew we could do it at the beginning, and having a coach who supports us through it all, knowing we can do it, makes us know that we're capable of doing anything."
Cal State Northridge entered the game 0-9 against UCLA.
"Today is obviously a big day for our program, but it's a big day for our young women who are in our program who have put in a lot of work and had to put up with me on days that they probably (didn't want to)," Flowers said. "This is all about our team."
The Matadors, ranked 19th nationally in 3-point shooting, made 10 of 22 attempts from 3-point range.
Masoni scored 18 points and Randi Freiss had six points and nine rebounds.
Alyssia Brewer scored 14 points for UCLA and Fields had 12. The Bruins committed a season-high 25 turnovers and shot 38.7 percent from the field.
The Bruins were coming off a win in the St. John's Chartwells Holiday Classic but coach Cori Close said her team took an early holiday against a hungry Cal State Northridge team.
"They were ready to get better and they were ready to compete tonight and we were, I felt, already on Christmas break mentally," Close said. "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work as hard, and the reality is they were more focused. They hustled. They knew how to play to their strengths. We know that part of maturation process has to be that when you're a top program, you're going to have a constant target on your back. We need to learn how to play with that much better."
Big West preseason favorite Cal State Northridge, which started four sophomores and a freshman, responded to every UCLA surge in the second half in a game that featured 12 ties and 17 lead changes.
Haley White made 3-pointers to give Cal State Northridge leads of 62-58 and 65-62. Masoni's fifth 3-pointer put Northridge ahead, 54-53. Guay scored on a pretty left hand drive before Jianni Jackson converted on a similar play for a 51-49 lead.
Flowers said Marsoni arrived on campus two days before school started. The 6-foot-1 forward previously played in Italy's national program.
"She's stepped in and she's been good for this team, and this team has been good for her," Flowers said. "They've embraced her - Camille Mahlknecht, our captain, has done a great job of helping her not only being in America but being on our team and everything that goes along with that."
UCLA appeared to take control early in the second half when Fields made her fourth 3-pointer to put UCLA ahead, 40-39. But Northridge came out of a timeout, got a stop as Friess fed Guay for a breakaway layup.
UCLA took a 33-31 lead into halftime when Markel Walker grabbed a steal fed Mariah Williams for a breakaway layup. The Bruins, who average 18.5 turnovers a game, committed 13 in the first half.
"We didn't play defense at all," Brewer said. "They did whatever they wanted to. They were getting shots and penetrations, and we were either not there to stop the penetration or we weren't there to guard the shooters. I think the past two games built up to today. We weren't playing how we were against bigger teams, like an OU (Oklahoma) or a Texas, and we played to the (level) of our opponents, and we all learned we have to play our style of basketball no matter who we're playing."
Walker was guilty of four first half turnovers and scored six points. But Brewer, Fields and Atonye Nyingifa and each scored seven points to keep the Bruins in it through eight ties and eight lead changes.
Guay scored 12 of Northridge's first 18 points, getting most of them on drives to the basket. Marty Marconi sank three 3-pointers, giving the Matadors leads of 12-6 and 27-26.
UCLA had four turnovers in the first three minutes, and Close made two substitutions in the opening two minutes.
Close inserted Jasmine Dixon in the second half to try and spark her team although Dixon is playing with a bone bruise. Dixon had six points on 1-for-6 shooting.
"It wasn't our ideal choice," Close said. "I thought it was what our team needed, given the circumstance of how we were playing,"