NORTHRIDGE, Calif. - A 28-9 Cal State Northridge run in the second half nearly erased UC Irvine's 19-point halftime lead, as the Matadors were able to decrease that deficit to only three points heading into the final minutes of Thursday night's conference-opener.
Responding with a 7-0 run of their own, the Anteaters were able to pull away in the final minutes and defeat the Matadors by a final score of 71-62.
Freshman swingman Stephan Hicks led all Matadors with 17 points, followed by sophomore guards Aqueel Quinn and Josh Greene who recorded 15 and 14 points respectively.
Hicks has now recorded double-digit point totals in all 11 games this season.
Looking to earn their third straight victory over Irvine, the Matadors fell behind early due to the Anteaters' effort from the field throughout the first 20 minutes of action.
Connecting on 13-of-27 of their shots from the field, an effort that includes a 6-for-13 mark from behind the three-point arc, the Anteaters were able to build a lead as large as 22 points much to the dismay of the crowd in attendance at the Matadome.
As quickly as Irvine was able to build its lead, the Matadors were just as successful in decreasing that advantage once both teams returned to the court in the second half.
"I thought our effort was really good in the second half, I just wish we had that effort in the first. It was a tale of two games," said Braswell.
After Braswell called a quick timeout following UC Irvine's first basket of the second half, the Matadors rallied to score 14 of the next 16 points to cut UCI's lead to single digits.
Fueling CSUN's inaugural run was the performance of the Matadors on defense, and Quinn's scoring prowess on the opposite end.
Scoring eight of his 15 points during that time-span, Quinn and his teammates were also able to hold Irvine scoreless for more than eight minutes to bring the Matadors within striking distance mid-way through the half.
Shortly after Irvine guard Derick Flowers ended the Anteaters' scoring drought by scoring two of his game-high 21 points, the Matadors outscored UCI 11-5 in the following minutes to whittle Irvine's lead down to a 55-52 margin.
That was as close as the Matadors would get to erasing the Anteaters' advantage as Irvine was able to respond with a 7-0 scoring run to defeat the Matadors in Northridge for only the second time in the last six seasons.
"It took a lot of energy in the second half to dig ourselves out of the hole we created in the first," stated Braswell. "At the end, we just ran out of gas."
Cal State Northridge (3-8, 0-1 Big West) will look to earn its first conference victory on Monday, Jan. 2 at UC Riverside. Tip-off will take place at 7:05 p.m.
- GO MATADORS -