March 16, 2014

CSUN Falls In The Last Seconds to Cal Poly, 61-59, In Big West Championship Game

Box Score - CSUN vs Cal Poly

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications

Anaheim, Calif. –
Yes, there were a few tears flowing in the Cal State Northridge locker room after a heart-breaking 61-59 last second defeat to Cal Poly in the championship game of the 2014 Big West Conference Basketball Tournament on Saturday night at Honda Center.

But when head coach Reggie Theus, Josh Greene and Stephan Hicks marched into the post-game press conference to face a large group of reporters, this trio of Matadors answered each tough question with a high degree of professionalism. No excuses … tip your cap to your opponent.

This was the closest contested Big West Tournament championship game in ten years. In the 2004 title game, Pacific defeated CSUN, 75-73.

This was a tough loss, but Theus opened his remarks with credit to Cal Poly and to offer the Mustangs a successful trip in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

"I want to congratulate Cal Poly on their victory and the opportunity before them," Theus told reporters. "They played a well-coached game. They made the shots down the stretch."

It didn't take very long for Theus to hand out a bucketful of praise for the Matadors, who found the golden touch of tough defense and a high degree of offensive execution during the latter part of the season.

"I'm really proud of our guys and their effort tonight," said Theus. "Nobody thought we would be here."

Tournament seeds meant little for CSUN prior to the start of the conference tournament. Seeded fifth, the Matadors recorded a 82-78 overtime victory over fourth-seeded Hawai'i in the quarterfinals. CSUN then marched to a hard-earned 82-77 decision over third-seeded Long Beach State in the semfinals to setup a championship game against Cal Poly that was filled with drama and intrigue from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer.

Defense took center stage for both teams in the first half. CSUN shot only .313 (10-for-32) from the floor while Cal Poly managed only a .345 (10-for-29) shooting percentage. Despite the low shooting percentage, the Matadors held a 21-10 lead with 8:24 remaining in the first half. The Mustangs managed to cut the Matador lead to four points, 29-25, at the intermission.

The entire second half kept the nearly 3,700 spectators on the edge of their seats. Neither team could manage a bigger lead than three points until the final 1:32 when Stephen Maxwell powered his way to a layup to give the Matadors a 59-55 lead.

Two free throws by Cal Poly's Dave Nwaba cut the CSUN lead to 59-57. After a CSUN miss, Cal Poly grabbed the rebound, and with 14 seconds to play, Ridge Shipley drilled a three-pointer to give the Mustangs a 60-59 lead. Cal Poly added a free throw with four seconds on the clock. A final desperation attempt from half court by CSUN fell short to give the Mustangs a 61-59 victory, the Big West tournament championship, and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Stephen Maxwell led the Matadors with 18 points. Josh Greene added 12 points while Stephan Hicks added eleven points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Cal State Northridge defeated each of the league's top four teams (UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State, and Hawai'i) during the 2013-14 campaign.

"The game plan started in the summer, learning to identify the team and to stay within ourselves," said Theus. "During the year, we played within ourselves and really capitalized on what we did best. It gave us an opportunity to win every night. I'm very proud we had the opportunity to potentially go to the NCAA's and coming within a basket to make it. That is motivation to start us towards next year. Give credit to our players. They worked hard all year." 

CSUN's successful play late in the season offered a glimpse of something special on the horizon. Only two seniors graduate from this year's team that chalked up an 17-18 record. The team will be loaded with a talented array of returning players. CSUN will add a large and talented group of incoming recruits. The combination of the returning players and the influx of new talent will give Cal State Northridge a definite look as a contender for top league honors next year, and a possible berth in post-season tournament play.

Tournament Team …
Josh Greene, Stephan Hicks and Stephen Maxwell were named to the six-man Big West Conference all-tournament team … Others named were David Nwaba and Chris Eversley (MVP) of Cal Poly, and Will Davis II (UC Irvine) … In the three games, Greene scored 60 points (21-for-34 from the field, 8-for-16 from behind the arc, and 20-for-23 from the free throw line) … Hicks scored 59 points (19-for-22 from the free throw line) along with 23 rebounds … Maxwell scored 38 points along with 22 rebounds.

Number Notes …
Cal State Northridge played in 14 games (8-6) that were decided by five or less points … CSUN played in six one-point games (3-3) … The Matadors played in a school record six overtimes (5-2). 

Matador Memo …
Seven team and 24 individual school records were broken during the 2013-14 season … The team records included free throws made (765, #1 in the nation), free throw percentage (.791, #1 in the nation), points (2,689), free throws attempted (967), single game free throw percentage (.970 vs Hope International, #6 in NCAA history) and defensive rebounds (857) … Josh Greene set nine school records during his four-year CSUN career … They included career three-pointers (228), career free throw attempts (590), career free throw percentage (.871), single season free throw percentage (.914), single season minutes (1,256), games played (125), and single game free throw percentage (12-for-12 against Austin Peay and UCSB, and 11-for-11 against UC Irvine) … Stephan Hicks' new school record includes career free throws (438) … Tre Hale-Edmerson set four school records with career blocks (92), single season blocks (62), and blocks in a game (6 in two games) … Six players (Landon Drew, Josh Greene), Tre Hale-Edmerson, Stephan Hicks, Stephen Maxwell, Aaron Parks) set school records with games played in a season (35).