San Diego, Calif. – Three wins in three games. That's how Cal State Northridge has started the 2012-13 season.
The Matadors used their depth, timely baskets, and team work to post a thrilling 74-71 victory at the University of San Diego in the first round of the NUCDF Challenge on Thursday night at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.
"This was really a good win for us," beamed head coach Bobby Braswell. "To win a road game against a good WCC (West Coast Conference) team (USD) was huge for our young team."
Stephan Hicks scored a game-high 25 points (one short of his career-high set last year against Cal State Bakersfield), including three critical points in the final seconds to insure the team's best start since the 2007-08 campaign when Cal State Northridge started with a 4-0 record.
The Matadors held a slim 67-65 lead with 58 seconds remaining in the game. Two free throws by Alan Guei upped the margin to four points, 69-65 with 38 ticks on the clock.
Then Hicks became one of several heroes for the Matadors. A steal by Hicks sent the redshirt sophomore racing down the court to record a basket that gave CSUN a 71-65 lead with 26 seconds left.
Hicks wasn't done with the heroic efforts. A short miss by USD's Ken Rancifer was rebounded by Hicks. Hicks was fouled and he added a free throw to insure CSUN the win with a 72-65 lead with nine seconds left.
Hicks gave Cal State Northridge the momentum during the early portions of the game. Hicks scored six points to help Cal State Northridge surge to a 14-4 lead at the 15:21 mark of the opening frame.
USD fought back to take a 25-24 lead at the 6:26 mark, but the Matadors had a 36-34 advantage at halftime.
"The team jumped out to the big lead, but you kind of knew it wouldn't last with this young group especially on the road," remarked Braswell. "But this team is tough. USD made a run to take the lead but we fought back to get the lead back at halftime (36-34). That was critical because our guys really played well. We challenged the team at halftime to play hard defensively. I thought we did a good job of doing that (in the second half).
Four Matadors scored in double figures. Besides Hicks' 25 points (9-for-10 from the floor along with eight rebounds and a career-high seven steals), Stephen Maxwell tallied his third straight double-digit game with 14 points along with seven rebounds. Tre Hale-Edmerson added eleven points and eleven rebounds. Josh Greene collected eleven points.
Cal State Northridge dominated the boards. The Matadors garnered 40 rebounds compared to only 24 for the Toreros.
Matador Memo …
Depth continues to be a major strength for Cal State Northridge ... The Matadors used eleven of its 15 players, including nine players who tallied double-digit minutes ... Stephan Hicks etched his name into the Matador record book with a career-high seven steals … Only four other players in the 55-year history of Matador basketball history have ever had more steals in a game … The seven steals were the most in a game in more than eight years … Hick's 9-of-10 shooting effort against USD was third-best for a single game in school history … The school record is 10-for-10 by Ed Shaw vs Occidental during the 1972-73 season (12/1/72) … After grabbing only four rebounds in his first two games, freshman forward Tre Hale-Edmerson dominated the boards with a season-high eleven rebounds (five on the offensive end) ... Hale-Edmerson also added eleven points (5-for-7 from the floor) along with two steals ... Cal State Northridge will continue action in the NUCDF Challenge on Friday (Nov. 16) against Siena … Game time is slated for 4:00 pm … This will be the first meeting between the two schools.