By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Stockton, Calif. – For most of the 2012-13 season, Cal State Northridge has been among the nation's leaders in free throw percentage.
At one point, the Matadors were miles ahead of the school record (.755) set just last year.
Entering Thursday night's game at Pacific, not only were the Matadors were successful with their efforts at the free throw line (.725, currently fourth-best in school history), they led the conference in making their free throws; 66 more free throws over their nearest rival, Hawai'i.
But the success the team has enjoyed at the charity stripe proved to be CSUN's down fall in a 66-59 loss at Pacific in a Big West Conference game on Thursday night.
Cal State Northridge could only hit .581 (18-for-31) of its free throw attempts against the Tigers, their third worst shooting effort of the season.
The Matadors played well enough to score an upset over Pacific, but shooting free throws spelled defeat.
"Give UOP credit," said Braswell. "They defended us. They made it tough on us. But if we make some free throws, who knows how the game would have turned out."
Stephan Hicks returned after missing four games with a knee injury. In a 29-minute starting role, Hicks recorded 16 points along with seven rebounds and three steals.
"He was fatigued," said Braswell. "He had not played in a long time (the last four games) but we needed his numbers. He gave us good numbers."
Defensively, Cal State Northridge played well in spurts. That kept the team in the contest until the end. Pacific led 21-10 with 6:58 in the first half, but the Matadors fought back with a 13-3 run to pull within one point, 24-23, with 2:22 remaining in the first half.
However, the Matadors allowed a jumper by UOP's Sama Taku and a steal and dunk by Colin Beatty in the final seconds to take a 30-24 halftime lead.
Pacific upped its lead to 16 points, 53-37, with 10:25 remaining in the game, but back came Cal State Northridge. With 1:17 left on the clock, a sustained rally by CSUN cut the Tiger lead to only four points, 58-54, with 1:17 to play. A Matador free throw had cut the UOP to only four points. Another CSUN free throw would have cut the UOP to three points and a one possession contest. However, CSUN missed the free throw. Pacific came down the court and a layup by Lorenzo McCloud gave the home team a 60-54 lead with 1:06 remaining.
The Tigers eventually built the lead up to nine points, 64-55, with 20 seconds left.
"I thought we had good intensity defensively, but give Pacific credit," said Braswell. "There were times we didn't handle the physicality of the game very well."
Matador Memo …
Josh Greene had a three-pointer against Pacific to give him 131 for his three-year Matador career to move him into a sixth place tie with Brooklyn McLinn (1989-90) … Cal State Northridge travels to UC Davis on Saturday (2/16/13, 7:00 pm) … The Aggies rolled over Hawai'I, 89-65, on Thursday night.