By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications
Northridge, Calif. – "Congratulations team. This was a great win."
Those were the words of Cal State Northridge University President Dr. Dianne Harrison, who joined the celebration in the Matador locker room shortly after CSUN rallied from an eleven-point second half deficit to post an exciting 92-83 overtime victory over Cal State Fullerton in a men's basketball game on Saturday night at the Matadome.
Dr. Harrison is a frequent visitor at Matador athletic events.
To borrow an old cliche … the Matadors "did it the hard way. They earned it."
Down by as many as eleven points (54-43) with 9:25 remaining in the game, the Matadors hit key shots and had several timely defensive stops against a determined Cal State Fullerton team.
Never give up.
Cal State Northridge trailed, 62-56, with 1:37 left on the clock. A Josh Greene three-pointer and two free throws by Stephen Maxwell cut the Titan margin to only one point, 62-61, at the 52-second mark.
Cal State Fullerton upped its lead to four points, 67-63 with 14 seconds to play.
Fourteen seconds to tie the game? … No problem !!!
Two free throws by Landon Drew cut the Titan margin to two points, 67-65, with nine precious seconds on the clock … No problem !!!
The Matadors then fouled CSF's Steve McClellan with nine seconds left. McClellan, who scored a team-high 18 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, stepped to the free throw line. McClellan, a 74 percent free throw shooter who had hit 6-of-8 free throws earlier in the game, missed a crucial free throw on his first attempt followed by a made free throw to give CSF a 68-65 lead.
Cal State Northridge had the last opportunity. A three-pointer would be CSUN's only answer.
"When we need an important shot, these are the two guys we go to," said head coach Reggie Theus, who looked at Josh Greene and Stephan Hicks, who attended the post-game press conference. "Josh is the best catch-and-shoot guy we have. When we need a quick three-pointer, Josh is the guy. He got a good screen to hit a tough three."
From the right angle, Greene hit a tough three-pointer with heavy defensive pressure to tie the game, 68-68.
"There was really a chemistry between myself and Landon," said Greene of CSUN's point-guard Landon Drew, who passed the ball to Greene. "I hadn't shot the ball well all game. "I was aggressive. I got a good look at the rim. I just let it go."
Greene's three-point basket cleanly sailed through the net.
Overtime demanded its presence.
" … When we needed Josh, he made the shot," said Theus. "That's what players do."
CSUN never trailed in overtime. Two free throws by Maxwell jumped the Matadors into a 70-68 lead at 4:41 in overtime. The Titans tied the game at 72-72 at the 3:06 mark. But five straight points by CSUN, including two layups by Maxwell and Greene, helped sealed the win.
The Matador lead ballooned to as many as nine points, 86-77, with 43 seconds remaining in overtime.
Cal State Northridge trailed at halftime, 32-30. Cal State Fullerton shot .478 compared to only .393 for the Matadors.
"I told the team at halftime that we were ok," Theus told reporters. "The game is still in our hands. This game was not out of touch. "We just needed to simply make stops. They (CSF) were shooting the ball well (48 percent) while we were shooting only 39 percent. Our press got us back into the game."
Cal State Fullerton committed 20 turnovers.
"It was really a grind it out game for us," admitted Theus. "What I try to tell the players is that the game is never over. The question is how bad do you want to win the game and how many (defensive) stops can you get. When we needed stops in the second half, we got them. That won the game for us. This was a total team effort."
Cal State Northridge raised its record to 12-13 overall, and 4-6 in the Big West Conference. Cal State Fullerton fell to 7-15 overall and 2-6 in league competition.
"We have not made the conference tournament the last two years," said Theus. "This is not an option for us. We believe that in the conference tournament anything can happen. To put ourselves into that position, we have to win our home games. We also need to find a way to win on the road."
Cal State Northridge is 9-2 at home; 1-11 on the road. 2-0 in neutral site games.
Stephan Hicks scored career-highs in points (27) and rebounds (13), Stephen Maxwell added 22 points and nine rebounds. Josh Greene chipped in with 19 points to lead Cal State Northridge.
Memorable Moments …
One of the attendees at the Cal State Northridge vs Cal State Fullerton basketball game was Chuck Malouf, who holds the single season free throw percentage school record of .869 set during the 1963-64 season.
It remains the second OLDEST record in the 56-year history of Matador basketball.
After the game, Malouf met Josh Greene at the post-game press conference for the first time. Greene will break Malouf's 50-year school record this year. Greene is well above Malouf's school record (.869). Following Saturday night's game vs Cal State Fullerton, Greene is shooting .912 (114-for-125) from the charity stripe.
"I couldn't ask for a better person than Josh Greene to break my school record," admitted Malouf, who attended the game along with his wife Nickie. "I am so impressed with the young man, and all the records he has accomplished as a Matador. Congratulations, Josh."
Malouf took several pictures with Greene and head coach Reggie Theus. Malouf, like a true Matador, wore his old Matador lettermen's jacket.
"This is a real honor and a blessing to be in the same room with Mr. Malouf," said Greene. "It is really nice to be a part of history."
The OLDEST school record is a 16-for-16 free throw percentage single game record (1.000) set by Jim Wagner vs Cal Poly Pomona during the 1961-62 season.
Matador Memo …
The overtime game against Cal State Fullerton was the fourth of the 2013-14 season for Cal State Northridge … Only two other times in the 56-year history of Matador basketball has the team played four overtime games in a season … Only five other seasons have the Matadors played two straight overtime games … Last Thursday (2/6/14), Cal State Northridge lost a 90-86 overtime decision at UC Davis … Tre Hale-Edmerson broke the single season school record for blocks … With four blocks against Cal State Fullerton, Hale-Edmerson now has 45 to break the old school record of 44 blocks Lenny Daniel set during the 2009-10 campaign.