By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Riverside, Ca. – To borrow an old phrase, Cal State Northridge is "takin' care of business."
The Matadors traveled to UC Riverside in search of its second straight road victory on Saturday night. Combine a suffocating defense and a timely offense, the Matadors "took care of business" with a highly decisive 69-53 victory over the Highlanders in a Big West Conference game.
"I am so proud of these guys," said a beaming Matador head coach Bobby Braswell. "We were in a bit of a rut for a little while. As a coach, you always anticipate having a young team that has spent a lot of time on the mountain top. But when you have a valley, you wonder how they are going to handle it. We were on the wrong side for a little bit, but the guys have continued to work hard in practice everyday."
Stephen Maxwell led a trio of Matador double-digit scorers with 17 points. Josh Greene added eleven points along with four rebounds and four assists. Brandon Perry came off the bench to score 12 points (5-for-7 from the floor) along with four rebounds in 18 minutes.
Tre Hale-Edmerson led both teams in rebounding with ten, one short of his season-high earlier this year at San Diego.
The Matadors shot 50 percent (29-for-58 from the floor), held UC Riverside to only .362 shooting (17-for-47), and outrebounded UCR (36-27). Pretty nice stats considering Cal State Northridge played its second straight game without its leading scorer, Stephan Hicks (16.8 ppg) and second leading rebounder (7.6 rpg) who is out with a knee injury.
"They had every reason to go down after losing Stephan (Hicks), but these guys have done exactly the opposite," said Braswell. "They have pulled together and played hard the last two games. We have played great team basketball."
Earlier this year, UC Riverside upset CSUN, 65-64, thanks in part to UCR center Chris Patton, who scored 19 points (including the game winner as time ran out) along with six rebounds. Tonight, the game plan was simple. Contain Patton.
"He really hurt us in the last game," Braswell remembered. "We had a game plan of double-teaming him when he came down on the block. We made it more difficult for him this time. Overall, our team defense was really good."
UC Riverside took an early 10-5 lead at the 15:28 mark of the first half. That would end when the Matadors scored eleven straight points to take a 16-10 lead at the 9:45 mark.
The Matadors continued to pound away and led by as many as 12 points (28-16, 1:50) in the first half.
UC Riverside battled back to within six points, 34-28, with 17:04 to play, but Cal State Northridge punched back and led by 13 points, 45-32, with 12:56 to play.
The largest CSUN point margin was 18 points on four different occasions in the second half.
Cal State Northridge (12-11 overall, 3-8 BWC) has won three of its last four games. All three of those wins were on the road.
The enthusiasm will now reach a fever pitch next week when UC Irvine (2/7/13, 7:00 pm) and defending league champion Long Beach State (2/9/13, 7:05 pm) invade the Matadome..
"We're playing good basketball, and that makes this upcoming week very special," said Braswell. "After being on the road (the last four games), it will be nice to come home to play in front of our fans and our students now that school is back in session. We want all our faculty, administrators and students to come out this week to show your support of the team."
Matador Memo …
Landon Drew churned out seven assists with only one turnover to take over the assist lead over teammate Josh Greene … Drew now has 87 assists compared to 83 for Greene … Lonnie Watson continued his excellent play with seven points and two rebounds as a starter with 34 minutes … Two nights earlier at Cal State Fullerton, Watson tallied career highs in points (11) and rebounds (4) in the 92-86 victory over the Titans.