By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Northridge, Calif. – It's late in the basketball season and opposing teams have figured a way to beat Cal State Northridge.
UC Santa Barbara used that formula to hand the Matadors an 83-74 defeat in a Big West Conference game on Saturday night at the Matadome.
UCSB's Alan Williams is a strong, physical 6-foot-7, 240-pound freshman forward, who used his strength to push his way around CSUN's inside defenders. Williams scored 32 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. After a lukewarm first half, Williams scored 24 points and garnered eleven rebounds in the second half as the Gauchos came back from a 31-29 halftime deficit to outscore CSUN, 54-43, in the second half.
Over the last several weeks, opposing teams have played physical, in-your-face, tough basketball game against Cal State Northridge. The Gauchos were no exception.
"They were just bigger and a lot more physical than we were," said CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell. "Alan Williams just took over the second half and we had no response to him. This game showed how much work we need to do in the off-season. Our young guys have to get bigger and stronger."
Kyle Boswell added 18 points off the bench for UC Santa Barbara. "Boswell made some big shots," said Braswell. "When he is shooting like that, it's hard to double-team Williams. They have other guys who can hit some shots."
Stephen Maxwell's basket gave Cal State Northridge a 35-33 lead with 18 minutes on the clock. However, two baskets by Williams gave the Gauchos a 37-35 lead. It was a lead the Gauchos never relinquished the remainder of the contest.
"We were trying to put several players on Williams but he was catching the ball too deep," explained Braswell. "He was close to the basket and just too strong for us physically."
Another basket by Williams with 6:43 to play gave UCSB its biggest lead of the game, 59-47. CSUN mounted a furious comeback in the 35 seconds when Josh Greene dropped in a three-pointer to cut the Gauchos lead to only four points, 78-74. But UCSB scored the game's final five points. Three of those points came from Williams at the free throw line.
"We wanted to try to push the pace and press them some," Braswell said in explaining CSUN's game plan. "But they were prepared for that because that's how we beat them earlier this season. They jumped into a zone defense at the start. They were determined to play a zone the entire game. We haven't handle zone defenses very well all season because we don't shoot it well enough."
The victory gave UCSB a one-and-a-half game lead over Cal State Northridge for the eighth and final spot in the upcoming Big West Tournament (March 14-16). The Gauchos are 5-11 in league play while CSUN is 4-13. Cal State Northridge closes the league season against Hawai'i (March 7, 7:30 pm) at the Matadome. UCSB has two more home games against Cal State Fullerton (3/7/13) and last place UC Riverside (3/9/13).
"It has been like a broken record," said Braswell. "We haven't come out in the second half when the other team elevates the level of play. I think a little bit has to do with our youth. When teams are scoring at the other end, you have to too learn how to come back, forget about that possession and play the next possession. I think we dwell too long on our possessions. We were not getting our post guys in better position on the blocks. That comes with experience and maturity."
Cal State Northridge fell to 13-17 overall. UCSB is 9-19.
"These guys have a lot of basketball left in him over the next few years," said Braswell. "This is a rough, learning process to go through. I told the guys how much work they have to do in the off-season to get bigger and stronger. Physical teams have beaten us in the last three games."
Before the game, Matador guard Josh Greene was honored for his accomplishments in the classroom. Greene was recently honored as a recipient of the Academic Momentum Award by the Scholar Baller program in conjunction with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS). Greene, a Recreation and Tourism Management major, was one of 64 student-athletes from across the United States because of his academic success in the classroom and his community service.
"To have Josh get national recognition for his academic success means a lot to us," said Braswell. "Our team has had the highest GPA amongst the men's teams in the last two years. We are very proud of that."
Matador Memo …
Josh Greene led CSUN scorers with 25 points along with four 3-pointers and three steals in 28 minutes … Greene now has 143 three-pointers in his three-year Matador career to pass Carl Holmes (140, 1997-01) into fourth place on the all-time CSUN list … Greene's two assists against the Gauchos gives him 239 in his career, tenth-best in the school record book … Landon Drew added eleven points against UCSB … Stephen Maxwell led CSUN rebounders with ten boards … Eleven times this season Maxwell has grabbed ten or more rebounds.