By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Salt Lake City, Utah – Cal State Northridge battled back from a 21-point halftime deficit, 48-27, to post an unbelievable 76-71 victory over the University of Utah in a non-league basketball game on Friday night at the Huntsman Center.
For Bobby Braswell, it was the biggest comeback in his 17 seasons as head coach of the Matadors.
"I will remember this game as one of my greatest wins," said Braswell. "To be down 21 points at halftime, and to make such a tremendous comeback on the road against a team (Utah) that has been playing very well, I couldn't have asked for anything more."
Utah shot 60 percent (18-for-30) in the first half, but the Matadors defense buckled down in the second half to limit the Utes to only 22 percent shooting (6-for-27) in the final 20 minutes.
"I told the team how proud I was of their effort," said Braswell. "We were dead in the water at half time. We weren't play well. We had no life, no energy. We didn't play with any toughness. I told the guys tough players win. I also told them I thought we could come back and win this game."
The team certainly responded in the second half. The Matadors shot 66 percent (19-for-29) in the second half, and outscored the Utes, 49-23.
"Our defense really picked it up in the second half," said Braswell. "We needed to go out (in the second half) and play with some heart. When we were warming up (before the start of the second half, you could see Josh Greene, Allan Guei and Landon Drew encouraging their teammates. They really were the catalyst to getting the team going."
CSUN employed a pressure man-to-man defense in the second half, according to Braswell.
"The guys just kept getting (defensive) stops," said Braswell. "When we got the stops, we were able to get some easy baskets. The biggest challenge to our big players was to play with toughness, something we didn't do in the first half. We just weren't making our presence known on the offensive and defensive ends. I challenged them. We just used our speed and athleticism a little bit better in the second half."
Utah led Cal State Northridge, 54-35, with 15:37 left in the game. In the next 9:11, the Matadors outscored the Utes, 23-5, to cut the Utah lead to 59-58. Then the Matadors moved in front for the first time in the game when Josh Greene hit a three-pointer to give CSUN a 61-59 lead with 5:17 remaining. Utah never led after Greene's three-pointer.
The pro-Utah crowd of nearly 7,400 went silent.
With 55 seconds remaining in the game, Landon Drew attacked the basket, and tossed in a no-look, 180 degree circus layup to give the Matadors a 71-66 lead. Drew was fouled on the play and added a free throw that gave CSUN its biggest lead of the game, 72-66.
Stephan Hicks and Drew each scored 19 points to pace the Matador win. Josh Greene added 13 points, all in the second half. For Drew, it was a season-high.
"Give credit to the entire team for coming back in the second half," said Drew. "We challenged ourselves in the second half to step it up; just make a better effort. Our second half energy helped our defense."
CSUN raised its record to 9-3. Utah fell to 7-4.
It was CSUN's first victory over a Pac-12 school since the Matadors posted an 81-76 overtime victory at USC on Nov. 20, 2005.
The Matadors will now travel to the University of Hawai'i in the Big West Conference opener on Dec. 29.