January 30, 2011

CSUN Earns Dramatic 70-69 victory at UC Santa Barbara

Jan. 29, 2011

Final Stats

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director, Media Relations

Santa Barbara, Calif. - If you bought a ticket to Saturday night's basketball game between Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara you got your money's worth, and a WHOLE lot more.

The Thunderdome, home of the UCSB Gauchos, certainly lived up to its name. A hyped-up crowd of both UCSB fans and a sizable number of Matador patrons yelled and cheered for two teams that battled like heavyweight boxers in a championship match. Cal State Northridge wouldn't budge one inch. Neither would UC Santa Barbara.

From the opening tipoff to the doubly exciting finish, CSUN and UCSB, both teams residing in second place in the Big West Conference at the start of the evening, traded baskets and played tough, in-your-face defense right to the final buzzer in a game that left spectators, coaches and players emotionally drained in this highly intense contest. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier would have roared their approval.

The crowd of nearly 2,500 fans sounded like 25,000 screamers at a rock concert.

In the end, Cal State Northridge stood tall with their hands raised in victory, a 70-69 decision in their favor in a game that will be talked about and analyzed for a long, long time.

"UCSB is picked to win the (Big West) conference championship so you know they are not going to lie down," said Matador head coach Bobby Braswell. "Defensively, we needed to do everything in order to win."

Get set for the rematch between CSUN and UCSB on February 24, this time on CSUN's home court, The Matadome. No pre-game speeches are necessary. Just roll out the ball, raise your sleeves, and let's play!!!

Team-play leads to wins and the Matadors again displayed the characteristics of a squad with chemistry that is molding into something real good. The five-man substitution pattern employed five games ago again worked. Nine of the 13 players on the CSUN roster played double-digit minutes. Since head coach Bobby Braswell instituted that game strategy, the Matadors have produced a 4-1 record, held the opposition to only .361 shooting and .246 from behind the three-point line.

Individually, Rashaun McLemore and Lenny Daniel renewed their season-long performance of scoring, playing sound defense and making timely baskets. Daniel also recorded a dramatic block near the end of the game that would have had Dikeme Mutombo cheering in approval. McLemore played like a champion in the second half. McLemore weaved his through and around UCSB's tenacious defense for a career-high 26 points (10-for-13 from the free throw line, 4-for-7 from behind the arc). McLemore wasn't content on just scoring points. McLemore added four rebounds. Daniel, meanwhile, continued his normal game of producing double-doubles (points-rebounds). Daniel tallied 12 points and a game-high eleven rebounds. But it was a sky walker block late in the game by UCSB's James Nunnally that will be most remembered about everybody who witnessed the game.

Cal State Northridge could have easily folded early on in the game. The Matadors led 7-3 at the 15:54 mark of the first half. UCSB then scored 13 straight points to take a 16-7 lead at 9:45 left before intermission. It was UCSB's biggest lead and the pro-Gaucho crowd was on a caffeine-high.

Not so fast. Cal State Northridge simply wouldn't concede the game. The Matadors simply chiseled away at the Gaucho lead throughout the rest of their first half.

At halftime, CSUN 32, UC Santa Barbara 32.

"We didn't panic," said Braswell. "We have showed some toughness defensively in the last five games."

Cal State Northridge came out of the starting blocks in the second half like a Triple Crown champion. The Matadors scored three baskets in less than 60 seconds to take a 38-32 lead. UCSB had to call a timeout to slow down the Matador blitz attack.

UCSB eventually tied the game, 43-43, with 14:14 remaining in the game. But a Rashaun McLemore layup at 13:48 again pushed CSUN into the lead, this time for good.

Cal State Northridge upped its lead to eight points on two occasions, including a 63-55 advantage with 4:57 remaining.

Then the stress level of the game reached a fever pitch. With 2:44 left in the game, UCSB's Jaime Serna dribbled down the lane and threw down a tomahawk jam that cut CSUN's lead to three points, 63-60, and increased the decibel level of the Thunderdome to deafening heights.

Back came CSUN as Dathan Lyles made good on a layup with 2:14 left ... CSUN 65, UCSB 60.

Back came UCSB on a Jon Pastorek free throw to make it 65-61 with 2:06 on the clock.

After a CSUN missed shot, UCSB rebounded the ball and came down the court. What appeared to be a UCSB layup to cut the Matador margin to two points was thwarted by Lenny Daniel's huge block that helped lead to two free throws by Dathan Lyles that made it 67-61 with 32 seconds left on the clock.

UCSB, however, would not fold. After McLemore hit a free throw to make it 68-63 with 14 seconds remaining, UCSB's Jordan Weiner canned a three-pointer. Now the score was 68-66 with 13 seconds left.

A CSUN turnover with eleven seconds remaining gave UCSB the ball back. The Gauchos called a timeout to setup a play they hoped be a game-tying or game-winning shot. Time resumed and with seven seconds on the clock, James Nunnally, who had the game-winning shot at the buzzer at Cal Poly two nights earlier, fired off a shot that missed its mark. UCSB got the ball back, but McLemore stole an out-of-bounds pass with six seconds to go and got fouled. McLemore simply nestled in two free throws to make it 70-66 with four seconds left.

UCSB then quickly came down the court and Orlando Johnson connected on a three-pointer from the top of the key but it wasn't enough.

Final Score - Cal State Northridge 70, UC Santa Barbara 69.

The victory pushed Cal State Northridge into sole possession of second place in the Big West Conference standings at 5-3. UCSB fell to 4-4.

Next up for the Matadors, who have won a season-high three games, is a Feb. 3 conference date at UC Riverside. Earlier this year, the Highlanders broke a 12-game losing streak to CSUN with a 70-61 victory at The Matadome.

Matador Memo ...
Lenny Daniel had two blocks against UC Santa Barbara to give him 68 for his career, fourth-best in school history ... Daniel is only one short of catching Tremaine Townsend (2007-09) in third place in the CSUN record book ... Thomas Shewmake (2003-07) is the school record holder with 82 blocks.