By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications
Northridge, Calif. – In a recent national story written on FoxSports.com, the headline read "Reggie Theus' focus on culture change pays off for CSUN".
After CSUN's recent 91-83 victory over Long Beach State, reporter Abbey Mastracco wrote "this win, the crowd and all, was the result of the culture change that (Reggie) Theus has implemented. He spent most of the preseason and part of the early season reaching out to groups on campus. He preached to his squad that they needed to be more on campus to attract more fans."
"It takes effort, we have to do a little bit more," Theus told Mastracco. "I have to do my part. They (the players) have to do their part. We have to sell this program – allow people on campus to know that we are a part of campus life."
Cal State Northridge basketball is now generating more talk around the campus and the community. Attendance showed a dramatic rise during the latter part of the season.
The Matadors will make their first Big West Conference Tournament appearance in three years when CSUN faces the University of Hawai'i (20-10 overall, 9-7 Big West), a talented team with a strong, veteran, talented front line that features two first team All-Big West Conference players; Christian Standhardinger (17.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Isaac Fotu (15.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
Game time is slated for approximately 8:30 pm or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 6:00 pm tournament game between Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State.
Cal State Northridge has chalked up a 15-17 overall record and a 7-9 mark in the Big West Conference.
"We're a team that lacks size but plays with aggressiveness and passion," Theus told reporters on Monday's Big West media conference call. "It's a great team to coach. We are not the most talented team. If we play hard and play the style of basketball that is best for us, we have a chance."
Theus says his coaching advise to his players is forward and direct.
"You have to be tougher," Theus. "You have to want it more than anything in the world."
In their first meeting at the Matadome earlier this year, the Matadors posted a well-earned 79-78 victory over the Rainbow Warriors. But in the second game later in the year in Honolulu, UH secured a 77-62 verdict. Why?
"They got 22 offensive rebounds," Theus said. "That has been our Achilles heal all year. It's our size. We are just not very big. But if we rebound the basketball, and are tough around the basket, we will have an opportunity to win this game."
Fox Sports Prime Ticket will have the live telecast of the game. Live Stats, Twitter updates and internet radio coverage will be available on Gomatadors.com. Instant game information is also available on CSUN's app, Front Row.
CSUN's talented trio of veterans, Stephen Maxwell, Josh Greene and Stephan Hicks have led the Matadors the entire 2013-14 season. Maxwell, a first team All-Big West Conference selection, and Greene and Hicks, both Honorable Mention all-league choices, have accounted for 66 percent of the team's offense this season.
Hawai'i head coach Gib Arnold respects the talents of Matador basketball, particularly the play of Maxwell.
"From day one, I thought CSUN was the most athletic team in the conference," said Arnold. "Maxwell is an undersized player but that doesn't matter. He probably has the biggest heart in the conference. He is extremely quick off the floor. He is a great second shot rebounder. We will have to counter their athleticism with penetration and getting to the rim. He is going to be a challenge."
Hawaii leads the series with Cal State Northridge, 8-3. None of the eleven games has ever been played on a neutral court. This year, the Matadors are 2-0 on a neutral court, and 5-0 over the last two seasons.
"We are very capable of beating anybody in this conference when we are locked in," said Theus. "But when we are not locked in, we are also capable of losing to anybody in the country. It's been that type of season."
Cal State Northridge is seeded fifth in the conference tournament while the Rainbow Warriors are seeded fourth.
Matador Memo …
Never in the 56-year history of Matador basketball has the team finished first in any national offensive or defensive category … CSUN has completed its regular season with a school record 696 free throws to lead the nation … Brigham Young (BYU) is second in the nation … BYU scored a 79-77 overtime victory over USF on Monday night in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament … BYU recorded 24 free throws to give the Cougars 688 for the season, only eight behind the nation's leader, Cal State Northridge … BYU will face Gonzaga in the WCC championship tournament game on Tuesday night.