RIVERSIDE, Calif, - It was a complete team effort that helped Cal State Northridge (4-8, 1-1 BWC) earn its first conference victory Monday evening as the Matadors led the entire game en route to a 63-52 win over UC Riverside.
Led by Stephan Hicks and Josh Greene, who each finished with a team-high 13 points, all nine players who played scored and grabbed at least one rebound. As a team, the Matadors out-rebounded the Highlanders by a 37-31 margin.
"I thought this was our best defensive effort of the season. Our guys stuck with the game plan and played hard for the entire 40 minutes," stated CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell.
Unlike its previous game against UC Irvine where CSUN faced an early and sizable deficit, it was the Matadors who were able to create a lead too large for the opposition to overcome.
In addition to scoring 20 of the game's first 24 points, the Matador defense prevented the Highlanders from recording their first field goal for the first 7:18 of the game. Leading by 13 once UCR was able to make its first basket, CSUN built a lead as large as 20 before entering the locker room at halftime with a 42-30 advantage.
The Matadors forced 13 Highlander turnovers, opportunities that the Matadors capitalized upon throughout the evening. Of CSUN's 63 points, 22 came off a UCR miscue.
From the opening whistle, Riverside could do little to disrupt CSUN's offense. The Matadors connected on over half of their shots (16-30, .533) and eight 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes. Northridge finished the game with a season-high .524 shooting percentage (11-of-21) from beyond the arc. On the other hand, the Highlanders were 4-of-18 (.222) from downtown.
The second half proved to be a much tougher test for the Matadors, who had to withstand a comeback attempt from the Highlanders. Despite shooting just 4-of-24 (16.7 percent) from the field, the Matadors made their free throws count and hit 10-of-14 in the frame.
Led by Michael Lizarraga and his career-high 6-for-6 shooting at the charity stripe, the Matadors finished the evening shooting 12-for-16 from the free throw line (.750). All four reserves who played (Vinnie McGhee, Aqeel Quinn, Allan Guei and Ari Feldman) scored six points as the CSUN bench outscored UCR's 24-2 for the game.
The Matadors will return to action this Saturday, Jan. 7, against Long Beach State in the first of three-game homestand. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.