Matadors Begin the New Year at UC Riverside, Seek First Big West Win

GAME #12 (Big West Game #2):

Northridge Matadors (3-8, 0-1 Big West) at UC Riverside Highlanders (6-7, 0-0 Big West)

Monday, Jan. 2, 2011 - 7:00 p.m. PST
Student Rec Center (2,725) - Riverside, Calif.
Live Stats: GoMatadors.com
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV
Audio: GoMatadors.com (Bill Courtland - PBP, Alan Zinsmeister - Analyst)
In-game Twitter updates: @GoMatadors

Game Notes (PDF)

MATADORS OPEN CONFERENCE ACTION AGAINST ANTEATERS

For the first time in the program's history, Cal State Northridge began its Big West schedule against the UC Irvine Anteaters in last Thursday's game at the Matadome. Looking to earn their third consecutive victory against Irvine, the Matadors fell behind early and entered the locker room at halftime trailing by 19 points. Once CSUN returned to the floor to begin the second half, the team's performance improved dramatically as Northridge scored 14 of 16 points throughout the inaugural minutes of the half. Aiding the Matadors' comeback effort was their performance on defense as CSUN held UCI scoreless for over eight minutes, trailing by as little as three points with well over nine minutes remaining in the game. Irvine rebounded with a well-timed run of their own, scoring seven straight points to pull away from CSUN and defeat the Matadors inside the Matadome for only the second time in the last six seasons by a final score of 71-62.

Finishing with a team-high 17 points, freshman swingman Stephan Hicks ended witha double-digit point total for the 11th straight game. Falling two points shy of tying his season-high, Aqeel Quinn added 15 points of his own, with teammate Josh Greene rounding out the trio of Matador double-digit scorers with 14 points.

Quinn ended his evening with six field goals, three of which were made from behind the arc, to record two new career-high figures. Greene also had a memorable night of his own as he set a new season high with four three-point field goals. 

A YOUNG MAN'S GAME

Cal State Northridge is the youngest team among more than 340 NCAA Division I schools in the country. Of the 18 players on this year's roster, there are only 12 years of collegiate basketball experience, an average of 0.67 years. Another Big West counterpart, UC Irvine, ranks second with 0.69 years of average experience, with Navy rounding out the top three with an average of 0.70 years. These statistics factor in the team's total years of previous collegiate experience with the number of players on the roster. The 18-man Matador roster has only three seniors, and zero juniors, the remaining roster is composed of seven freshmen, six sophomores, and two redshirt freshmen.

A CLOSER LOOK AT MONDAY'S MEETING

Looking to rebound from their loss suffered in last Thursday's conference opener, the Matadors hope to ring in the new year with their first Big West win of the season against UC Riverside. Idle during last week's inaugural day of Big West action, the Highlanders will begin their respective conference schedule at the Student Recreation Center against CSUN. Swept in both games played last season, Northridge hopes to build yet another sizable winning streak against the Highlanders starting on Monday. Prior to last season's sweep, the Matadors possessed a 12-game win streak against the Highlanders, a string of victories that initially began during the 2004-05 season. Northridge leads the all-time series 35-30, and possesses a 16-17 record in the 33 games played in Riverside.

UC RIVERSIDE REPORT

Entering Monday's matchup with a 6-7 overall record, UC Riverside hopes to extend its current win streak to three games when the Highlanders face CSUN in their conference home opener. In their last two games, the Highlanders defeated San Jose State 66-64, then traveled to San Antonio to defeat the host Roadrunners in the team's final game of the calendar year by a score of 70-65. Snapping a 12-game losing streak against the Matadors in their inaugural meeting last season, a win in their first meeting of 2012 will also extend UCR's win streak against CSUN to three games. This is the first of two meetings that will take place this season, Riverside will enter the Matadome in the return contest scheduled for Feb. 22. That game will also serve as the Matadors' final home game of the 2011-12 season.

Leading the Highlanders with his 15.1 points per game, senior guard Phil Martin is one of two UCR players who are averaging ten or more points this season. Senior guard Kareem Nitoto is the other with his 10.5 ppg figure. In addition to Martin and Nitoto, senior forward Kevin Bradshaw are the three Highlanders who have seen action in all 13 games this season. Averaging 59.5 points this season, the Highlander defense has faced its fair share of troubles this season as Riverside has allowed its opponents to score an average of 63.2 points per game this season.

PLAYER PROFILES

Stephan Hicks has only played 11 games in his collegiate career and has already emerged as one of the top players in the Big West Conference. Possessing a team-high average of 15.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, Hicks is the only Matador who has recorded double-digit point totals in every game this season. Making a swift and sudden impression amongst his peers, Hicks is currently ranked second and third in the conference with his scoring and rebounding averages. Hicks started his collegiate career with 19 points and eight rebounds at USC (11/11/11), then followed up with his first collegiate double-double (points-rebounds) with 22 points and 17 rebounds the following game at Hawai'i (11/14/11). The 17 rebounds collected against the Rainbow Warriors were only seven short of the school record set by George Robnett against UC Irvine during the 1970-71 season. The redshirt freshman ended his inaugural road trip as a Matador in impressive fashion by recording a season-high 23 points at Boise State (11/19/11) before dropping another 20 in front of his home crowd in his debut game at the Matadome against San Diego Christian (11/22/11). Converting on 58-66 free throw opportunities, Hicks' .879 free throw percentage is the highest mark in the conference. The swingman also own a top ten Big West ranking with his 5.5 defensive rebounds per game (2nd), 2.8 offensive rebounds per game (4th), and 1.00 steals per game (T-10th).

Providing the necessary leadership for one of the youngest teams in the nation, senior guard Vinnie McGhee has scored in double-figures in six of the 11 games he has appeared in this season. Leading the team with 39 assists, McGhee's 3.5 assists per game average falls just outside the Big West top ten. McGhee's shooting prowess from behind the arc does earn the Oakland, Calif. native a spot amongst his conference peers as his 1.8 three-point fields goals made per game is the eighth highest figure in the Conference alongside teammate Josh Greene.

The Matadors lead the Big West with their .759 free throw percentage; Greene is a big reason why CSUN is dangerous at the charity stripe this season as the sophomore guard has connected on 19-21 free throws to lead all Matadors with a .905 free throw percentage. Unafraid to take shoot from long range when provided with an opportunity to do so, Green and teammate McGhee lead all Matadors with 20 three-point field goals made apiece. 

SIGNING STORY

During the early signing period in November, Brandon Perry and Donovan Johnson signed national letters of intent, and are committed to playing for Cal State Northridge next season. Perry, a 6-6 forward, played a pivotal role in helping Taft High School earn its spot in the Los Angeles City championships during the 2010-11 season. Ranked by many publications as one of the top 150 players in the country, Perry helped Taft earn a 29-3 record and a perfect 10-0 mark in the West Valley League as a junior last season. 

A 6-3 guard hailing from Palisades High School, Johnson averaged 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and steals per game throughout the 2010-11 season to gain Los Angeles All-City and Western League Most Valuable Player accolades. As a junior, Johnson scored in double figures in 28 of the team's 32 games, highlighted by his season-high 30-point effort against Westchester High School.

TELEVISION TALK

During the past four seasons, 29 games involving CSUN basketball have been featured prominently on CBS, Fox Sports Net and ESPNU. During CSUN's march to the NCAA Tournament during the 2008-09 season, Matador games were televised a school record nine times. Northridge basketball fans will have the opportunity to see their team compete on four nationally televised broadcasts throughout the 2011-12 men's basketball season.

Featured nationally by ESPN on Nov. 15 against the University of Hawai'i in Honolulu, the Matadors will return to the airwaves on Jan. 21, 2012, and Feb. 25 on Fox Sports Prime Ticket when the team travels to Cal Poly and UC Irvine. CSUN will also make an appearance on Comcast SportsNet California on Feb. 9 when the team begins its annual Northern California Big West road trip at UC Davis. Northridge basketball fans are encouraged to check their local listings to find the exact channel listings for ESPN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, and Comcast SportsNet California.

Depending on the team's success in 2011-12, CSUN could be featured another two times on television, this would include a "wild card" selected game either on ESPNU or Fox Sports West on Saturday, Feb. 4, when the Matadors travel to Long Beach State. Other games also under consideration on Feb. 4 are UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Fullerton, UC Davis at UC Riverside, or Pacific at UC Irvine. The other possible telecast would take place on Saturday, Feb. 18, when Cal State Northridge participates in the 10th annual SEARS Bracketbusters sponsored by ESPN.

Thirteen nationally-televised contests selected from a pool of 142 teams and 16 conferences will be shown on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3, match-ups, game times and network assignments will be announced by ESPN on Monday, Jan. 30.

CONFERENCE CHATTER

Predicted to finish in eighth place last season as announced in the Conference's annual preseason poll, the Matadors proved the experts wrong, eventually finishing the season in third place with a 9-7 conference record en route to their berth in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Men's Basketball Tournament at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

This year, the pre-season results are exactly the same as CSUN tallied 61 points to earn another eighth-place finish just two points behind a UC Davis squad that finished seventh, and six points ahead of ninth-place UC Irvine (55 points). Collecting 20 first-place votes from the 24-member voting panel for a total of 212 points, Long Beach State was selected the favorite to claim the 2011-12 Big West men's basketball title. UC Santa Barbara was picked to finish second in this year's media poll, receiving the four remaining first-place votes and 196 points, Cal Poly was picked third in the poll with 158 points. Cal State Fullerton finished fourth in the media poll with 131 points, with UC Riverside and Pacific completing the poll in fifth and sixth place with 114 and 91 points respectively.

- GO MATADORS -

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