March 5, 2009
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Davis, Calif. - Chalk up another historic game in the annals of Cal State Northridge men's basketball.
Never before had the Matadors captured back-to-back league championships since Cal State Northridge went NCAA Division I during the 1990-91 campaign.
All that ended on a emotionally-filled evening of basketball on Thursday as Cal State Northridge clinched at least a tie for the Big West Championship with a decisive 99-72 victory at UC Davis.
In a season filled with adversity that could fill chapters in a best-selling book, the Cal State Northridge basketball team of 2008-09 simply has moved forward, charted a multitude of goals that has included hard work, team chemistry and a dedication that has made head coach Bobby Braswell beam with pride.
Braswell couldn't find enough words of gratitude and thanks for a job well done.
"I am thankful and so blessed with what God has done with this group," said a highly-emotional Braswell to his team and later to reporters after the game. "It's an amazing story. People were shoveling dirt in this teams face a couple weeks ago after the loss at UC Irvine. I am so blessed and moved by this basketball team and what this team has stepped up and done. I told them this team has written its own legacy by winning back-to-back league championships. I'm so proud of them."
Before each game, the Matadors set specific goals that include holding the opponent under 40 percent shooting, getting 30-to-35 deflections (the team recorded 39 against UC Davis), and out rebounding the opposition (44-29 against UCD). If those goals are met, victory is in sight.
"I knew our defense would wear them down a little bit," said Braswell. "The defense did a great job. Guys just stepped up and we were able to take UC Davis out of some things they wanted to do."
UC Davis began the evening on its own emotional high. It was Senior Night and their last home game of the year at The Pavilion. The Aggies jumped to a 15-11 lead at the 15:02 mark. UC Davis enjoyed a 29-28 with 6:09 in the first half, but from that point on, the Matadors took a 31-29 lead on a three-pointer by Vincent Cordell. The Matadors never trailed the rest of the game.
A 39-34 halftime expanded to 14 points, 57-43, with 14:14 left on the clock. As the game moved along, the Matadors lead kept getting bigger. With 4:24 left on the clock, Cal State Northridge enjoyed a 25-point lead, 89-64.
The final game score - Cal State Northridge 99, UC Davis 72 - was the biggest lead of the game.
Once again, the Matadors depth played a significant role in the win. With Tremaine Townsend and Willie Galick in foul trouble for a good portion of the game, Braswell used his entire bench that included 18 points from Rodrigue Mels and a career-high eleven points from Vincent Cordell. Mels, who has been moved to reserve point-guard, also charted five rebounds, three assists, two steals and block in 26 minutes off the bench. Cordell added six rebounds and one steal in 25 minutes in a reserve role.
Kenny Daniels enjoyed a career-high. Daniels, who had recently tallied a career-high 19 points at Idaho (2/21/09), scored 24 points (9-for-11 from the free throw line) while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Townsend added 15 points while Mark Hill chipped in with 13 points, three assists and two steals.
The victory was the fourth in the last five seasons at UC Davis. It was also the most number of points Cal State Northridge has scored on UCD's home court.
Cal State Northridge shot .544 (31-for-57) from the floor.
The victory raised CSUN's conference's record to 11-4 and 15-12 overall. Long Beach State beat Cal Poly, 63-60. The 49ers are in second place at 10-5.
Cal State Northridge can outright win the Big West Conference title with a victory at Pacific on Saturday (3/7/09, 7:00 p.m.). That won't be easy. The Tigers have never lost to Cal State Northridge in eight games played in Stockton, including seven victories over CSUN at the Spanos Center. Long Beach State travels to UC Santa Barbara.
One thing for sure. Thursday night's CSUN victory at UC Davis clinched an automatic berth to the semifinals of the Big West Tournament on March 13 at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Family and a large of group of friends of sophomore forward Michael Lizarraga were in attendance at the game ... Lizarraga, who is the only deaf person playing NCAA Division I basketball, played the last two minutes of the game and recorded a steal ... Lizarraga, who was born in nearby Woodland and raised in nearby Dixon, received a hearty cheer when he came into the game ... Rob Haynes did it again ... Haynes hit a three-pointer to give him at least one three-pointer in 25 straight games ... The 99 points scored tied a season-high ... Earlier this year (12/18/08), the Matadors scored a 99-64 decision against Pepperdine ... Tremaine Townsend recorded a block against UC Davis to give him 62 for his career, fourth-best in school history along with Calvin Chitwood (2004-08).