February 11, 2012

Matadors Suffer 62-61 Last-Second Setback at Pacific

STOCKTON, Calif. – An off-balanced, fadeaway shot by Pacific forward Ross Rivera with 1.9 seconds left in the game brought a difficult end to the Matadors' Northern California road trip, as Cal State Northridge fell 62-61 Saturday night at the Alex G. Spanos Center.

Rivera's shot negated what would have been a game-winning dunk by Stephen Maxwell.

With the clock winding down, and Northridge (6-17, 2-10 BWC) trailing by one, Vinnie McGhee spun around his defender, attacked the basket, and forced the Tigers to make a split-second decision.

If left unguarded, McGhee would have been given a clear path to an easy two points. Instead, Pacific's defenders chose to leave their man and converge around McGhee in an attempt to make his layup attempt as difficult as possible.

Instead of finishing the play, McGhee wisely passed it to an unguarded Maxwell, who took one step before emphatically earning CSUN's final points with a thunderous dunk to give Northridge a 61-60 lead with 23 seconds left in the game.

Rivera finished with a game-high 26 points, including the last 17 straight scored by Pacific (10-14, 6-6 BWC), but it was his final two that brought an unsatisfying conclusion to the evening for Northridge.

Once Pacific took the lead, all CSUN could do was cover as much distance as possible with its inbound pass, and take a quick shot - one that fell short of its intended target. 

Responsible for nine of the Matadors' 15 assists, McGhee set a new career-high on what was the Matadors' penultimate possession of the game.

One of three Matadors to score 10 or more points, Maxwell ended two rebounds shy of earning his second double-double of the season, finishing with 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

In addition to setting a new career-high, McGhee also scored 11 points in front of a contingent of friends and family who made the trip from his hometown of Oakland, Calif.

Josh Greene shot 6-for-11 from the floor, and was 5-for-7 from three-point distance to lead the Matadors in scoring with 19 points.

Starting with his 14-point effort versus Cal State Fullerton, Greene has scored double-digits in the Matadors' last six games. During that 17-day timespan, the sophomore guard has averaged 18.5 ppg.

As was the case in its previous game, CSUN received seven quick whistles in the opening minutes of the second half, placing Pacific in the bonus for the rest of the night.

The Matadors began the second half with a 33-21 lead, but that advantage eventually disappeared due a 19-7 Tigers scoring run that included eight trips to the free throw line.

Compared to a Northridge team that shot 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) from the free throw line, Pacific was 13-of-16 (81.3 percent) for the game, and made all 10 free throws taken in the second half. The Matadors also made every one of their free throws in the second half, but only earned five trips to the line.

Tied at 43 apiece with 11 minutes left in the half, each team traded baskets against the other until Northridge took a 57-51 lead on back-to-back-to-back three point shots.

Responsible for two of those three-point shots, McGhee and his teammate Greene led a CSUN squad that made more baskets from long range, than the free throw line.

Led by Greene with his season-high five, and McGhee with three, CSUN shot 9-of-14 (64.3 percent) from three.

Trailing by six after the Matadors' barrage of baskets from three, Pacific began to chip away at CSUN's lead until Rivera gave his team a 60-59 lead with 51 seconds remaining.

Maxwell's dunk turned a one-point deficit into a one-point lead, until Rivera connected on his last-second shot to earn the win.

Northridge will host its final home contests of the season throughout its upcoming three-game homestand beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 15, against Cal Poly (15-11, 6-6 BWC).