Northridge Falls in the Final Seconds to UC Riverside, 63-61

Cal State Northridge scored nine unanswered points in the final five minutes of the second half to tie the game at 61 apiece, but two free throws from UC Riverside's Robert Smith helped his Highlanders defeat the Matadors 63-61 in CSUN's 2011-12 home finale.

Led by Ari Feldman, one of four seniors who made their final home appearance in a Northridge uniform Wednesday night, all 11 Matadors who competed against UC Riverside made at least one field goal.

"Ari did a fantastic job tonight. He was a guy who found some gaps, found some seams, and knocked down some shots tonight," said Northridge head coach Bobby Braswell.

Feldman finished with a team-high nine points.

Following the conclusion of the game, Feldman, Michael Lizarraga, John Hayward-Mayhew, and Vinnie McGhee were honored alongside their family, friends, and loved ones for their contributions to the Cal State Northridge men's basketball program.

The Matadors led 31-28 at the break before the Highlanders turned that three-point deficit, into a lead that grew to as large as 10 points as the second half progressed.

Northridge (7-19, 3-11 BWC) was able to eventually shave one point off UC Riverside's (13-15, 6-8 BWC) lead before embarking a 9-0 run over a five-minute timespan to tie the game with only 20 seconds remaining.

Started by Feldman's two free throws, Aqeel Quinn's layup cut the CSUN deficit down to five before a three from Vinnie McGhee, and a layup from Josh Greene evened things up at 61-61.

Throughout that CSUN scoring run, UC Riverside missed its final four field goal attempts, and committed five turnovers.

With UC Riverside looking to take the last shot of the game, all the Matadors needed was just one more defensive stop to force another five minutes of action, and compete in their first regular-season overtime session in nearly two years.

Even though the Matadors initially forced Kareem Nitoto to miss his layup with nine seconds left, the Highlander forward was able to retain possession for his team by grabbing his own rebound.

With 4.2 seconds remaining, UC Riverside's Robert Smith drew a foul much to the dismay of the 1,159 fans in attendance inside the Matadome, and made both ends of his one-and-one to put the Highlanders up 63-61.

That is how the evening would ultimately end, as Northridge was unable to take a shot in its final possession, dropping only its third game to UC Riverside out of the last 15 head-to-head meetings.

"To lose it like that was disheartening. I was hoping we would have a chance to take it to overtime," said Braswell. "After the free throws, I called a time out to review the play we wanted to run… we just did not execute it."

In their final home game, Hayward-Mayhew and McGhee each finished with six points, Lizarraga ended his evening with four.

Said Braswell, "I am disappointed for our seniors, I wanted our seniors to go out at home with a win."

Northridge will make its final television appearance of the season this Saturday, Feb. 25, at UC Irvine (10-17, 5-8 BWC). Fox Sports Prime Ticket will begin its broadcast at the Bren Events Center at 7:30 p.m., an internet radio broadcast and in-game Twitter updates will also be available at GoMatadors.com.