Northridge, Calif. – A solid turn around in the second half proved to be the difference as Cal State Northridge battled back from a 38-33 halftime deficit to defeat Pepperdine, 81-75, for the fifth straight time in the season opener for both schools in men's basketball Friday night in front of a near capacity crowd at The Matadome.
The Matadors hit 52 percent of their shots (13-for-25) in the second half compared to only 36 percent (12-for-33) in the first 20 minutes. After only shooting six free throws (made five) in the first half, Cal State Northridge attacked the basket and made 20-of-21 free thow shots in the second half for .952.
Cal State Northridge outscored Pepperdine, 48-37, in the second half.
For the game, CSUN, which led the Big West Conference in free throw percentage last year, hit 25-for-27 free throws for .926.
Pepperdine held a 54-41 lead with 13:17 remaining in the game, but head coach Bobby Braswell challenged the Matadors to win the next four minutes.
"Thank the Lord we have some guys who don't know how to quit," said Braswell. "The last 12 minutes of the game we really picked it up and started to play some basketball. We found a way to tough it out. We made some big plays at the end."
The Matadors took a 64-63 lead with 5:06 remaining in the game, and gradually increased its lead to as many as eight points, 75-67, at the 1:09 mark.
Four Matador players scored in double figures by freshman guard Donovan Johnson, who came off the bench to score a team-high 19 points. Johnson played 24 minutes, hitting 7-of-10 shots from the floor along with three steals and a block. The trusted scoring trio of Josh Greene, Stephen Maxwell and Stephan Hicks combined for 41 points. Greene scored 16 points (9-for-10 from the free throw line). Maxwell powered his way for 15 points (5-for-8 from the floor, 5-for-5 from the free throw line) along with six rebounds. Hicks added ten points (3-for-4 from the floor, 4-for-4 from the free throw line) along with a team-high seven rebounds.
Jordan Baker led Pepperdine with 21 points and six rebounds while Lorne Jackson added 16 points and six rebounds.
Cal State Northridge hosts Eastern Washington on Monday, November 12, at 7:05 pm at The Matadome.