March 7, 2009

Matadors Clinch Outright Big West Title Despite Loss

March 7, 2009

Final Stats

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)

Stockton, Calif. - Thank you UC Santa Barbara!!!

Shortly after the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team dropped a 62-55 decision at Pacific Saturday night at the Spanos Center, it appeared the first place Matadors were going to lose the top seed in the upcoming Big West Tournament (March 11-13).

The first place team in the final regular season standings earns the top seed in the upcoming tournament (March 11-14), and an automatic berth to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

As the disappointed Matadors marched to their locker room, it appeared the second place team in the league, Long Beach State, was well on its way to a victory at UC Santa Barbara. A 49er victory coupled with the CSUN loss would have meant both teams tied for first place at 11-5.

Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State split their season series, so a tiebreaker formula would determine the top seed in the tournament. Because Long Beach State scored two victories over third place Pacific, and the Matadors dropped two games to the Tigers, Long Beach State would get the top seed and the NIT berth.

All the media attention focused on the Long Beach State game at UC Santa Barbara. Both teams were still playing following the conclusion of the CSUN-UOP game. The 49ers led almost the entire game and two free throws by T.J. Robinson with 6.8 seconds to play gave the 49ers a 75-73 lead.

However, UCSB's James Nunnally sank a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Gauchos a dramatic come-from-behind 76-75 victory.

The Gaucho victory over Long Beach State maintained CSUN's first place finish outright in the Big West. It was also the second straight year the Matadors have won the league crown. Last year, Cal State Northridge shared the league regular season title with Cal State Fullerton and Pacific. This year, Cal State Northridge stands alone on the podium.

The automatic berth to the NIT is only the second time in school history that Cal State Northridge has earned a post-season berth since joining the ranks of the NCAA Division I during the 1990-91 season. The team's only other post-season appearance was in the NCAA Tournament during the 2000-01 campaign.

Immediately after the UCSB victory over Long Beach State, Matador head coach Bobby Braswell told the team but the sting of the defeat at Pacific still hurt.

"This was a toughness game, and they out-toughed us," said Braswell as he scanned the final box score that showed Pacific outrebounding the Matadors, 42-15. "I felt the only player rebounding tonight was Tremaine Townsend. We need to definitely change that. We also needed get defensive stops and we couldn't get them. It was a good game for the fans to watch, and I thought we battled, but we just got out-toughed on the boards."

Pacific forward Bryan LeDuc was the main nemesis for the Matadors on the boards. LeDuc came off the Tiger bench to grab 13 rebounds in addition to scoring 13 points in 25 minutes of play.

The Matadors countered with Townsend, who tallied seven rebounds. No Matador, however, could grab more than four rebounds.

The Matadors looked great at the start. A Willie Galick basket, a three-pointer by Mark Hill and a two free throws by Rodrigue Mels pushed CSUN to a quick 7-0 lead.

The Matadors maintained the lead until 39 seconds left in the first half when UOP's James Doran canned a three-pointer to tie the game (25-25) and send both teams to the locker room at halftime.

Pacific took its first lead of the game (27-25) with 19:17 remaining in the game, but a layup by Rob Haynes and a tip in basket by Galick gave the Matadors the lead back at 29-27.

Pacific never regained the lead until the 12:19 mark at 40-39. From there the game was tied ten times, and there were four lead changes.

The Tigers took the lead for good with 1:03 remaining on a layup by LeDuc to make it 57-55. From there, Pacific added five straight points to run out the clock. The final score read - Pacific 62, Cal State Northridge 55.

Rodrigue Mels provided an offensive spark for CSUN off the bench with 13 points (7-for-8 from the free throw line). Kenny Daniels was CSUN's other double-digit scorer with eleven points.

The loss dropped Cal State Northridge to 15-13 overall, but still the Big West outright championship belonged to the Matadors at 11-5.

"Let's keep things in perspective," said Braswell. "We won the league championship outright which means we are guaranteed post-season play (NIT). This is a great day for our program. We're feeling down (about the loss), but we'll recover. We'll gear it up again next week."

Matador Memo
Rob Haynes hit another three-pointer ... That is now 26 straight games Haynes has hit at least one 3-pointer ... Haynes also played in his 116th game at Cal State Northridge, only four short of the school record held by Jonathan Heard (2004-08) ... Tremaine Townsend's two blocks gives him 64 for his career, fourth-best in school history.

The Final Big West Standings
Teams Conference Overall
1. Cal State Northridge 11-5 15-13
2. Long Beach State 10-6 15-14
3. Pacific 10-6 17-11
4. UC Santa Barbara 8-8 15-14
4. UC Irvine 8-8 12-18
4. UC Riverside 8-8 17-12
4. Cal State Fullerton 7-9 13-16
8. UC Davis 7-9 12-18
9. Cal Poly 3-13 7-21

The 2009 Big West Tournament (March 11-14 at the Anaheim Convention Center)
Wednesday, March 11
6:00 p.m. - #5 UC Irvine (12-18) vs #8 UC Davis (12-18)
30 minutes after the end of the UCI-UCD game - #6 UC Riverside (17-12) vs #7 Cal State Fullerton (13-16)

Thursday, March 12
6:00 p.m. - #3 Pacific (17-11) vs the lowest remaining seed
30 minutes after the end of the previous game - #4 UC Santa Barbara (15-14) vs the highest remaining seed

Friday, March 13
5:30 p.m. - #1 Cal State Northridge (15-13) vs the lowest remaining seed (ESPNU)
7:30 p.m. - #2 Long Beach State (15-14) vs the highest remaining seed (ESPNU)

Saturday, March 14
9:00 p.m. - Championship Game (ESPN2)

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