NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – Led by Vinnie McGhee who finished with a season-high 16 points, Cal State Northridge rallied from a late 11-point deficit Saturday night to end its three-game homestand with an 84-80 victory over the UC Davis Aggies.
"Vinnie McGhee was the MVP tonight, his overall game was fantastic. This was his best game as a point guard for us in the three years that he has been here. He ran the offense, kept us going smoothly, but defensively he was all over the place and made sure that guys were doing the right things," said Northridge head coach Bobby Braswell.
Northridge has now defeated UC Davis in 14 of its last 18 head-to-head meetings, including the last nine straight inside the Matadome.
"This was a great win for us," said Braswell. "I challenged my guys to play as hard as they could and lay it all out there tonight."
Trailing UC Davis (1-16, 0-5 BWC) 71-60 with 6:40 remaining in the game, Cal State Northridge (5-10, 2-3 BWC) scored 16 unanswered points to earn the lead for good.
"We kept our minds focused on getting as many stops as possible, and that is what we did," said McGhee.
Until that CSUN scoring run, the Aggies led for a majority of the game, turning a 43-41 halftime lead into an 11-point advantage prior to the Matadors' final offensive outburst.
"I felt that once we made that run, and turned the corner, our defense would take over the game."
CSUN's second-half scoring spree was not the first time in Saturday's game that the Matadors were able to battle back and make a double-digit Aggie advantage disappear.
Trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half, Northridge was able to hold a brief one-point lead on three different occasions, trading baskets with UC Davis throughout the final four minutes before entering the locker room at the half down by two.
Ending the first half shooting 61.1 percent from the field (11-for-18), the Aggies eventually finished the game making half of their shots from the field (23-for-46), an effort that also included their 54.2 percent (13-for-24) overall performance from three-point range - all season-high marks.
"They shot the ball extremely well, and were unbelievable from the floor. This was their best shooting performance by far this season," said Braswell. "But our guys found a way to win and did not quit."
As well as the Aggies were shooting, Northridge was just as successful from the field as the Matadors also connected on over half of their shots (16-for-31, 51.6 percent) taken throughout the first 20 minutes of action.
For the game, Northridge shot 52.5 percent (31-for-59) from the field, and sank 66.7 percent (14-for-21) of its free throw attempts.
But it was CSUN's long-range shooting that helped the team take the lead for good in the latter moments of the second half, as nine of the 16 points scored during its game-changing run were earned from behind the arc.
Led by John Hayward-Mayhew, McGhee, and Aqeel Quinn who each finished with two baskets apiece, Northridge made nearly half of its shots (8-for-18, 44.4 percent) taken throughout the game from three-point distance.
In addition to Hayward-Mayhew, McGhee, and Quinn, Josh Greene was also successful in his only three-point attempt, but it was Ari Feldman's three that brought the Matador faithful to its feet.
Responsible for the last three Northridge points during its second-half scoring streak, Feldman's shot created a two-possession advantage for the Matadors with 2:36 remaining in the game.
"I had confidence in my shot," said Feldman about his basket that extended CSUN's lead to five points. "I had a look, and the result was great."
Feldman has now made five of his eight (62.5 percent) three-point attempts this season.
Aggie head coach Jim Les took a timeout immediately after Feldman's shot, a decision that paid minor dividends, as UC Davis was able to snap its five minute scoreless skid by making the last of its 21 free throws to cut the Matadors' lead to four.
Ending the evening with a 91.3 percent (21-for-23) effort from the free throw line, the Aggies made 20 straight free throws before missing their first shot with 2:47 left in the game.
Entering the Matadome as the most successful team at the free throw line in the Big West Conference, CSUN sank six of its final seven free throws to keep its lead at a healthy margin throughout the final minute of the game to earn its second Big West win of the season.
Said Braswell, "A game like this shows our heart and our toughness."
The Matadors have now defeated UC Davis in their last nine head-to-head home meetings, a string of victories that initially began on Nov. 25, 1988.
Cal State Northridge will look to earn its second conference road victory in as many attempts when the Matadors face the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (8-6, 3-1 BWC) in a 7 p.m. game on Thursday, Jan. 19.