TURLOCK -- There were bound to be a number of growing pains in the first year of Wayman Strickland's coaching tenure with the Cal State Stanislaus women's basketball team.
Count Tuesday night's 78-42 loss to Chico State as one of them.
Not only was it the home opener for the Warriors, but also a California Collegiate Athletic Association lid-lifter for a team in near-complete rebuilding mode, and never mind that the visiting Wildcats return four starters and were picked to finish fourth in the conference.
Home openers don't get much more difficult than that, so a 36-point loss while not acceptable may be understandable.
"For an opening night you never want to lose a game like that, but Chico is a quality team picked to be in the top half of the league," Strickland said. "For us, tonight was an unfortunate teachable moment for our girls, and hopefully we'll learn to stay composed."
What the impressive crowd of 526 at Fitzpatrick Arena saw was a Stanislaus team determined to run and press which bought them a few minutes of competitive play in the first half.
But except for Lauren Godde, who followed her 39-point performance in Saturday's loss at Dominican with a 20-point, 11-rebound effort against the Wildcats, the Warriors did not appear to have any obvious offensive options.
Yes, the press is supposed to create turnovers and fuel offense, but Stanislaus had only five steals, only two off the press. Making things worse was a 26.2 percent (17 for 65) shooting performance, which made it difficult for the Warriors to get into press mode.
"Our press worked at the beginning, but the girls were a little uptight and very nervous and things snowballed from there," Strickland said. "That happens when you have young people.
"We tried to take a couple timeouts to get them composed, but we never really got the feel tonight. It was unfortunate, but they did feel a lot of pressure and maybe I could have done a better job of calming them."
Stanislaus' only lead came at 1-0 after a free throw by Godde, but Chico pulled away to a 34-20 halftime lead after a ragged opening 20 minutes.
The Wildcats came out composed to start the second half and immediately went into a double high post offense, getting frequent layups while outscoring the Warriors 18-6 in the first five minutes after halftime.
"Chico did a good job of running their stuff, and they run it well," Strickland said. "They're not bigger than us, or faster than us, but they got out and executed. They have four starters returning and the held their composure better than us."
All nine Wildcats in uniform saw at least 12 minutes of playing time, which five reaching double figures in scoring. Posts McKinzie Dalthorp and Jazmine Miller scored 15 apiece.
Sophomore guard Sharon Washington of Manteca High was not in uniform, but coach Brian Fogel said she'd be returning to action the next time the Wildcats play.
Stanislaus will travel to British Columbia for games Friday and Saturday against Simon Fraser, but Strickland said he's most interested to see how his team responds in practice to the blowout loss in the home debut.
"Now that this is over, we'll see how focused we are at practice tomorrow," he said. "That's your biggest sign of what kind of character you have how you respond to adversity."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2150. Follow him at twitter.com/modestobeek.