By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
San Diego, Ca. – Cal State Northridge head coach Bobby Braswell has always stressed the importance of practicing your free throws. Making free throws could win a game or two during a collegiate season.
The Matadors have learned well. Last year, CSUN set a school record (.755) from the charity stripe. The Matador's free throw success also led the Big West Conference.
The trend has continued this season. CSUN leads the league in free throw percentage at .806. Josh Greene (.875), Stephen Maxwell (.850) and Stephan Hicks (.833) are among the league leaders. Greene hit four crucial free throws in the last 18 seconds to help propel the Matadors to a nail-biting 68-64 victory over Siena College during second round action on Friday night at the NUCDF Challenge at the University of San Diego's Jenny Craig Pavilion.
"… If you're going to win games and be a championship caliber team, you have to hit your free throws," said head coach Bobby Braswell. "And tonight, like we have all season, the guys stepped up to the line and knocked down some key free throws. Last night, Morgan (Tllford) made two free throws down the stretch to help us win a game."
Greene hit 6-of-6 charity tosses to give him eleven points. Greene was one of three CSUN starters to score in double figures. Stephan Hicks paced the Matadors with 20 points (6-for-7 from the free throw line) along with ten rebounds. Stephen Maxwell turned in another consistent performance with 19 points (7-for-10 from the floor) along with ten rebounds.
The Matadors produced 12 assists, ten steals and a season-low nine turnovers.
The victory raised the Matadors 2012-13 season record to 4-0, matching its best start since the 2007-08 campaign.
Cal State Northridge jumped to a 19-10 lead near the 13-minute mark of the first half. Back came Siena to cut the Matador lead to 22-20 at the 9:42 mark, thanks in part to four three-pointers by guard Rob Poole.
CSUN held a slim 34-31 lead at halftime.
The second half was 20 minutes of lead changes, 14 to be exact. The score was tied seven times.
"I thought their defense bothered us a little bit," said Braswell. "We just didn't shoot the ball very well against their zone defense which they played 90 percent of the game. It slowed the tempo of the game. It put us on our heels a little bit."
Siena went to their inside game in the second half. Their top player, O.D. Anosike, scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half. Anosike added a game-high 12 rebounds.
Siena gained a 58-57 lead with 1:45 remaining in the game. It would be the last time the Saints would enjoy the lead. A three-pointer by Greene pushed the Matadors in front, 60-58. Brandon Perry added a free throw followed by a jumper by Stephan Hicks to push the CSUN lead to five points (63-58), with 1:18 remaining.
Siena wouldn't surrender. The Saints cut the Matador lead to two points, 64-62, with 21 seconds on the clock. But Greene's two free throws with 18 seconds left, and another two free throws with six seconds left spelled victory for the Matadors.
Final Score – Cal State Northridge 68, Siena 64.
"We found a way to win," said Braswell. "If you're going to be a good team, you're going to have to find different ways to win. This was one of those gut check nights. It's not going to be pretty. The fans are not going to like the way it looks, but you have to find a way to win."
Cal State Northridge continues tournament play with a Saturday game (5:00 pm) against the University of Tulsa.
"It's a good feeling (4-0), said Braswell. "We are playing together. We are playing hard, unselfish basketball. The greatest compliments we've been getting from coaches are that we are playing hard, and that is what I like."
Matador Memo …
Cal State Northridge will be attempting to win its fifth straight game to start the season when it faces Tulsa on Saturday (11/17/12, 5:00 pm) at the NUCDF Challenge at USD … That hasn't happened since the 1981-82 campaign when the Matadors won their first nine games … Cal State Northridge and Tulsa will be meeting for the fourth time … The Golden Hurricane leads the series, 2-1 … The last meeting took place on Nov. 28, 2010, when Tulsa recorded a 80-63 victory over CSUN at the 76 Classic in Anaheim … Danny Manning is in his first season as head coach at Tulsa … Manning is Kansas' all-time leading scorer and rebounder … Manning, the number #1 overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1988, played 15 seasons in the NBA … Tulsa is 3-0 following their 64-51 win over USD on Friday night.