Feb. 20, 2008
Long Beach, Ca - Coaches always tell their reserve players "be ready to play at all times. You never know when your contribution will make a difference in key situations."
That proved to be a profound statement as reserve sophomore Tony Osunsanmi came off the bench and hit three critical free throws with less than 40 seconds to play to help the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team to a tough 82-78 victory over a determined Long Beach State team in a Big West game on Wednesday night at The Walter Pyramid.
Three Matador frontline players (Tremaine Townsend, Jayme Miller, Rob Haynes) had fouled out and Calvin Chitwood suffered a high ankle sprain with 13:33 left in the first half that allowed Osunsanmi to play in the final critical minutes when the 49ers were mounting a final rally.
Osunsanmi played four minutes and made the most of his heroic opportunity. Osunsanmi scored three points and added two rebounds to help lift the Matadors to their 18th victory in 24 games, but importantly secure first place in the conference for another night with a 10-2 mark.
"I appreciate the team's effort and heart, and how they kept fighting," said Matadors head coach Bobby Braswell. "In the end we made some key free throws. Tony (Osunsanmi) doesn't play a lot of minutes but he came in and made those three key free throws. He gets the game ball."
Chitwood will be examined on Thursday determine the extent of his right high ankle sprain, the same ankle he injured which forced him to miss two games earlier this year.
Long Beach State, 6-19 overall and 2-10 in the conference, led through most of the first half until 5:35 when the Matadors took the lead for good at 18-17 on a free throw by Miller.
The Matador extended their lead to eight points at halftime, 32-24.
The lead grew too as many as 15 points, 66-51, with 8:57 remaining in the game on a Jonathan Heard dunk. But the 49ers refused to quit, outscoring the Matadors, 19-6, to make it 72-70 with 2:47 remaining.
But the Matadors scored their final eight points on a layup by Heard, three free throws by Osunsanmi, and three more free throws by Josh Jenkins to insure the Matador win and a sweep of the season series against the defending Big West champion.
Townsend recorded his league leading eighth double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Miller scored 15 points (6-for-6 from the floor). Heard scored 13 points.
The Matadors hit .509 (28-for-55) from the floor.
Cal State Northridge now takes a break from league action to face Rider University (18-9) in a BracketBuster game on Saturday (2/23/08, 6:00 p.m.) on ESPNU.
"It's going to be a nationally-televised game, and it's good for our conference," said Braswell. "We're going to approach this game on Saturday as if we were playing someone in our conference."
Matador Minute ... With 13 points tonight at Long Beach State, senior all-conference candidate Jonathan Heard now has 1,299 career points to pass Jim Malkin (1,286 points, 1959-62) into fourth place all-time at Cal State Northridge ... Heard now has 74 career starts which ties him for ninth place with Joseph Frazier (2001-05).