Matadors Return to the Road for Big West Games at UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly

GAME #16 (Big West Game #6):

Northridge Matadors (5-10, 2-3 Big West) at UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (8-6, 3-1 Big West)
Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 - 7 p.m. PST
The Thunderdome (6,000) - Santa Barbara, Calif.
Live Stats: GoMatadors.com
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV
Audio: GoMatadors.com (Bill Courtland - PBP, Alan Zinsmeister - Analyst)
In-game Twitter updates: @GoMatadors

GAME #17 (Big West Game #7):

Northridge Matadors at Cal Poly Mustangs (11-7, 2-3 Big West)
Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 - 5 p.m. PST
Robert A. Mott Gymnasium (3,032) - San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Televised Broadcast: Fox Sports Prime Ticket
Live Stats:
 GoMatadors.com
Audio: GoMatadors.com (Bill Courtland - PBP, Alan Zinsmeister - Analyst)
In-game Twitter updates: @GoMatadors

Game Notes (PDF)

THAT'S THE (PRIME) TICKET

Cal State Northridge will compete in the first of two games broadcasted by Fox Sports Prime Ticket this season when the Matadors face the Cal Poly Mustangs in a 5 p.m. contest this Saturday. CSUN's other appearance on Prime Ticket will take place on Feb. 25 when the Matadors travel to the Bren Events Center to face the UC Irvine Anteaters.

CSUN'S ROAD WARRIORS READY TO ENTER THE THUNDERDOME


Competing in its first road game since defeating UC Riverside on Jan. 2, Cal State Northridge will begin its Central California road trip this Thursday against UC Santa Barbara. Facing the Gauchos in the second game of their three-game homestand, the Matadors will look to replicate their efforts from last season's trip to Thunderdome against this season's Big West third-place team. Earning a one-point win at Santa Barbara last season, Northridge also defeated the Gauchos by eight in the return matchup before losing to Santa Barbara in the semifinal round of the 2011 Big West Basketball Tournament.

Although UCSB holds a 29-15 all-time series advantage, seven of the last 10 games played between the two have ended in CSUN's favor, including three of the last four in Santa Barbara.

All-Time Series Record Against UC Santa Barbara: Northridge trails 15-29
Home Record: 6-11    
Away Record: 7-16  
Neutral Record: 2-2
Last Year's Results: Northridge 70, at UCSB 69 (1/29/11); at Northridge 68, UCSB 60 (2/24/11); UCSB 83, vs. Northridge 63 (3/11/11)
Last Northridge Road Win: Northridge 70, UCSB 69 (1/29/11)

A CLOSER LOOK AT UC SANTA BARBARA

After ending its three-game homestand with its come-from-behind victory against UC Davis, Northridge will look to win its second conference road game in as many opportunities when the Matadors face UC Santa Barbara this Thursday. Possessing an 8-6 overall record, UCSB enters Thursday's matchup with a 3-1 conference record after defeating UC Irvine 74-56 in the first of three consecutive home games for the Gauchos.

Starting its season with four straight victories, Santa Barbara dropped five of its final six non-conference games prior to the start of Big West competition before rebounding with three wins out of the last four played. Thursday's game against the Matadors will be the ninth home game of the season for UCSB, as the Gauchos look to earn their seventh victory inside The Thunderdome this season. Known for its loud and rowdy atmosphere, the Gauchos' distinct home-court advantage has failed to overwhelm or intimidate the Matadors in recent years. Since the 2007-08 season, the Gauchos have won 26 of 34 home games against Big West opponents. Of those eight losses, three were suffered against Cal State Northridge.

Led by senior guards Orlando Johnson, the Big West's leading scorer (20.2 ppg), and James Nunnally who is ranked No. 5 with 16.1 ppg, Santa Barbara's 74.3 ppg team scoring average is second only to Cal State Fullerton. Collectively responsible for 508 of their team's 1,040 points, Johnson and Nunnally are responsible for almost 49 percent of Santa Barbara's total offense this season.

The Gauchos will compete their current homestand against Long Beach State this Saturday before playing six of their following seven conference contests on the road.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR NORTHRIDGE 

Cal State Northridge will make the first of its two scheduled appearances this season on Fox Sports Prime Ticket when the Matadors travel to San Luis Obispo to face the Cal Poly Mustangs this Saturday.

Returning to campus after splitting last week's games at UC Irvine (W, 66-50), and at UC Riverside (L, 60-53), Cal Poly will host Long Beach State Thursday night before facing the Matadors. Not including their Sears BracketBuster matchup (which has not been determined at the time of release) the Mustangs will play six of their next eight games away from Mott Gymnasium - a challenging portion of their schedule that includes a visit to The Matadome on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Beginning this week's action tied for sixth in the Big West alongside the Matadors, Cal Poly possesses an 11-7 overall record. Victorious in five of their eight previously played home games, the Mustangs have split their eight road games this season, and were victorious in both neutral site games played in Las Vegas. 

Even though CSUN holds a 26-16 advantage in the 42 games played against Cal Poly inside the Matadome, the Matadors have not fared as well in their 45 trips to San Luis Obispo, as Cal Poly holds a 29-16 edge on its home court. Trailing Cal Poly by only three games all-time (42-45) the Matadors have closed the gap in recent years by winning six of the last eight head-to-head meetings, splitting the last four played inside Mott Gymnasium.

MATADOR DOUBLE-DOUBLES

Finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Stephan Hicks recorded his third double-double of the season on Thursday, Jan. 12 against Pacific. Recording the team's first double-double since earning identical numbers last season against Pacifica (12/17/11), Hicks first-ever double-double took place in only his second game as a Matador when he finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds at Hawai'i (11/14/11).

Josh Greene scored 15 points, and earned 11 assists against Pacifica to record his first double-double of the season, with Stephen Maxwell rounding out the list of double-doubles earned by CSUN student-athletes. Maxwell's first game as a Matador was a memorable one as he finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds against Cal State Bakersfield (11/30/11). Four of the five Northridge double-doubles earned this season were earned inside the Matadome, with Hicks' performance at Hawai'i serving as the lone exception. 

DOUBLE YOUR CSUN DOUBLE-DOUBLE INFORMATION

Of the 48 double-doubles recorded this season by Big West players as of Jan. 15, five have been earned by four different freshman. In addition to Matador swingman Stephan Hicks who leads all freshmen with three, CSUN forward Stephen Maxwell, UC Irvine's Will Davis III, and UC Santa Barbara's Alan Williams have each recorded one double-double apiece.

CSUN'S BLOCK PARTY

Led by Frankie Eteuati and his team-high 14 blocks, the Matadors enter Thursday's game with an average of 2.67 blocks per game. Single-handedly responsible for more than one-third of his team's 40 blocked shots, Eteuati set a new career high on Monday, Jan. 2, at UC Riverside, by earning four of CSUN's five blocks in his team's 11-point victory over the Highlanders.

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE

Northridge has taken full advantage of its free throw opportunities throughout the season as the team possesses a conference-high 74.4 free throw percentage (238-for-320). Led by Josh Greene and his team-high 21-for-25 (84.0 percent) clip at the charity stripe, Stephan Hicks (76-for-94, 80.9 percent), and Aqeel Quinn (25-for-31, 80.6 percent) are the three Matadors who have earned at least 10 free throw opportunities and are shooting 80 percent or higher this season. 

NORTHRIDGE VS. THE NATION

Even though this year's team features numerous underclassmen, the Matadors find themselves amongst the some of the most well-known and respected programs in the nation in two statistical categories. The most successful Big West team at the free throw line this season, CSUN's 74.4 free throw percentage is also the 28th-highest in the nation. Converting on 80.8 percent of its free throws taken this season, Weber St. leads all Division I programs. 

Also leading the Big West with its +2.93 turnover margin, more than one full turnover than second-ranked Pacific and its +1.31 turnover differential, the Matadors find themselves ranked No. 41 in the nation in that category. Syracuse leads all Division I teams with its +7.4 figure.

THAT'S THE GUEI TO GET YOUR TEAMMATES INVOLVED

One of four Matadors to see action in all 15 games this season, Allan Guei enters Thursday's game ranked No. 2 on the team with 42 assists, 19 of which were earned throughout CSUN's first five conference games. Also ranked No. 5 in the Big West with 3.80 apg average based upon those five games, Guei's 3.17 assist/turnover ratio against his conference counterparts is the best ratio in the Big West. The only freshman with a top ten assist/turnover ratio (conference games only), Guei's 3.17 figure is more than one assist higher than Cal State Fullerton junior Kwame Vaughn who ranks second in that category with his 2.00 ratio.

DANGEROUS FROM DOWNTOWN

Responsible for the final three of his team's points during its 16-0 second-half scoring run against UC Davis last Saturday, Ari Feldman's three-point shot all but officially earned the win for the Matadors as the Aggies were unable to regain their lead for the remainder of the game. Even though he has only attempted seven 3-pt. feld goals in the four Big West games he has appeared in, Feldman has been extremely successful from long range. Connecting on five of those shots. Feldman's 71.4 percent success rate is the highest 3-pt. percentage in the conference (Big West games only).

YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION

Leading the way for Cal State Northridge this season is a redshirt freshman who is quickly making a name for himself amongst his conference peers. Recording double-digit scoring totals in all 15 games played, swingman Stephan Hicks leads all Matadors with 16.3 points, and 8.0 rebounds per game. In addition to leading his team with those numbers, Hicks' averages are the fourth- and third-highest figures respectively in the Big West. Successfully converting on 76-of-94 free throw opportunities, his 80.9 free throw percentage is the fourth-highest in the conference. Hicks is also ranked No. 2 in the Big West with his average of 3.00 offensive rebounds, and No. 4 with 5.00 defensive rebounds per game.

ANYTHING BUT GREEN(E)

Josh Greene is one of only two Matadors who are averaging double-digit points per game this season. The sophomore guard ranks second on the team with 10.1 ppg, helped by the fact that he has scored in double figures in five of the last eight contests. After a slow start in which he combined for 16 points through the first three games, Greene's production has picked up drastically as he has reached double figures in points in eight of his 15 appearances this season. On Saturday, Jan. 7, against preseason favorite Long Beach State, Greene tallied a team-high 15 points. He also drew the defensive assignment of the Big West No. 2 leading scorer, Casper Ware, and held Ware to his third-lowest scoring total of the season with 12 points.

WILD WILD (FOX SPORTS) WEST

Fox Sports West has made its "Wild Card" selection for the round of Big West games scheduled to take place on Saturday, Feb. 4, and will televise the Matadors' series finale against Long Beach State. Tip-off will take place at 7:30 p.m.

ALOHA BIG WEST TOUR

The 2012 Big West Tour presented by Hawai'i Tourism Authority is set to launch on Jan. 21 on the campus of Cal State Northridge prior to the start of that night's CSUN-UC Santa Barbara women's basketball game. The tour will then relocate to the Matador Bookstore Lawn from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Jan. 24, before making its next stop at UC Riverside the following week. The tour will hit all nine Big West schools over an eight-week timespan as it brings the preparation and excitement of the Big West Tournament to each campus.  Fans will have a chance to win various prizes, including ampm food items, sunglasses, water bottles, leis, and "We Are The Big West" wristbands. All fans who stop by the Tour and sign up will be entered into a drawing for a chance at a trip for two to Hawai'i.

IT'S BETTER TO RECEIVE THAN GIVE...

Fifteen games into the season, the Matadors are forcing their opponents to commit a conference-high 16.8 turnovers per game. Leading the Big West with its +2.93 turnover margin, CSUN's turnover differential is more than one forced turnover higher than the +1.31 figure possessed by the conference's second-ranked team, Pacific.

... OR IS IT BETTER TO GIVE THAN RECEIVE?

Tying his season high with six assists earned against Long Beach State on Jan. 7, Allan Guei was responsible for nearly half of the 13 assists the Matadors recorded that game. This was the second time in his brief collegiate carer that Guei collected six assists, the first occasion also took place inside the Matadome in his first-ever collegiate home game against San Diego Christian (11/22/11).

CLEANING THE GLASS

One of the main reasons why the Matadors are fourth in the Big West with a scoring average of 67.7 points per game is the team's rebounding success. Averaging 35.1 rpg, CSUN leads all Big West teams with its 13.93 offensive rebounds per game average. Freshman Stephan Hicks leads all Matadors, and is second in the conference with 3.00 o/rpg. 

THREE TIMES THE TROUBLE

Competing in only his second season as a Matador, Josh Greene is building a reputation as one of the most dangerous three-point threats in the Big West. Currently seventh in the conference with 1.87 3-pt. field goals made per game, Greene also leads the team with 28 baskets made from behind the arc. Trailing Greene by only two field goals, Vinnie McGhee's 28.6 3-pt. percentage is third only to Greene's 30.4 percent clip, and Aqeel Quinn's team-high 32.6 3-pt. percentage. Connecting on 15-of-46 3-pt. shots, Aqeel Quinn rounds out CSUN's top three (min. 10 3-pt. FG made) from three.

The trio's shooting prowess helped Northridge earn its first Big West victory of the year on Jan. 2, at UC Riverside, as Greene, McGhee, and Quinn were collectively responsible for seven of the team's 11 3-pt. field goals made in CSUN's 11-point victory over the Highlanders.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS ACCORDINGLY

In an effort to accommodate Comcast SportsNet California and its broadcast of CSUN's road game at UC Davis on Feb. 9, tip-off will now take place at 8:00 p.m. Basketball fans interested in watching the final regular season meeting between the Matadors and the Aggies are encouraged to check their satellite/cable listings, or visit www.bigwest.org/tv to watch a live stream of this game on BigWest TV.

WELCOME BACK

Fifth-year senior forward Michael Lizarraga has been granted a season of competition waiver by the NCAA and will be eligible to play for the Matadors for the final 20 games of the 2011-12 season beginning Saturday, Dec. 17 against Pacifica College.

Lizarraga, a 6-7 forward from Dixon, Calif., averaged 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds while playing in 79 games during his Matador career which began in 2007-08. As a senior in 2010-11, he appeared in a career-high 32 games, starting 10, while averaging a career-high 5.9 points per game and shooting 52.2% from the floor. He finished the season as the teams' second leading rebounder at 4.2 rebounds per game as the Matadors advanced to the Big West Tournament semifinals.

Lizarraga was awarded a special Inspirational Award by the Big West Conference head coaches as the nation's only deaf NCAA Division I men's basketball student-athlete following the 2010-11 season.

A YOUNG MAN'S GAME 

The youngest Division I team in the nation, the 19 players on CSUN's roster possess a combined 13 years of previous collegiate experience for an average of 0.68 years per player. Another Big West counterpart, UC Irvine, ranks second with 0.69 years of average experience, with Navy completing the top three with an average of 0.70 years. These statistics factor in the team's total years of previous collegiate experience with the number of players on the roster. The 19-man Matador roster has only four seniors, and zero juniors, with the remaining positions filled by seven freshmen, six sophomores, and two redshirt freshmen.

EARLY SIGNING SUCCESS

During the early signing period in November, Brandon Perry and Donovan Johnson signed national letters of intent and are committed to playing for Cal State Northridge next season. Perry, a 6-6 forward, played a pivotal role in helping Taft High School earn its spot in the Los Angeles City championships during the 2010-11 season. Ranked by many publications as one of the top 150 players in the country, Perry helped Taft earn a 29-3 record and a perfect 10-0 mark in the West Valley League as a junior last season.

A 6-3 guard hailing from Palisades High School, Johnson averaged 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and steals per game throughout the 2010-11 season to gain Los Angeles All-City and Western League Most Valuable Player accolades. As a junior, Johnson scored in double figures in 28 of the team's 32 games, highlighted by his season-high 30-point effort against Westchester High School. 

CHEER FOR THE MATADORS AT HOME, EVEN WHEN THE TEAM IS ON THE ROAD

During the past four seasons, 29 games involving CSUN basketball have been featured prominently on CBS, Fox Sports Net and ESPN. During CSUN's march to the NCAA Tournament during the 2008-09 season, Matador games were televised a school record nine times. Northridge basketball fans will have the opportunity to see their team compete in five televised broadcasts, on four different networks, throughout the 2011-12 men's basketball season. 

Already featured nationally by ESPN on Nov. 15, 2011, at Hawai'i, the Matadors' next television appearance will take place on Jan. 21, 2012, when the team travels to San Luis Obispo to face Cal Poly. The first of two games televised by Fox Sports Prime Ticket this season, the Matadors will return to the network on Feb. 25 when CSUN visits the Bren Events Center to complete its season series against UC Irvine. Announced by the Big West Wednesday morning, Fox Sports West has chosen CSUN's Feb. 4 game at Long Beach State at its "Wild Card" selection, and will begin its live broadcast from the Walter Pyramid at 7:30 p.m.

CSUN will also make an appearance on Comcast SportsNet California on Feb. 9, beginning its annual Northern California Big West road trip with a televised contest against the host UC Davis Aggies. Northridge basketball fans are encouraged to check their local listings to find the exact channel listings for ESPN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Fox Sports West, and Comcast SportsNet California. 

Depending on the team's success in 2011-12, CSUN could also be featured on Saturday, Feb. 18, when Cal State Northridge participates in the 10th annual SEARS Bracketbusters sponsored by ESPN. Thirteen nationally-televised contests selected from a pool of 142 teams, and 16 conferences, will be shown on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3. Match-ups, game times and network assignments will be announced by ESPN on Monday, Jan. 30.

PRESEASON PREDICTIONS

Predicted to finish in eighth place last season as announced in the Conference's annual preseason poll, the Matadors proved the experts wrong, eventually finishing the 2010-11 season in third place with a 9-7 conference record en route to their berth in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Men's Basketball Tournament at the Honda Center in Anaheim. 

This year, the preseason results are exactly the same as CSUN tallied 61 points to earn another eighth-place finish, just two points behind a UC Davis squad that finished seventh, and six points ahead of ninth-place UC Irvine (55 points). Collecting 20 first-place votes from the 24-member voting panel for a total of 212 points, Long Beach State was selected the favorite to claim the 2011-12 Big West men's basketball title. UC Santa Barbara was picked to finish second in this year's media poll, receiving the four remaining first-place votes and 196 points, with Cal Poly rounding out the top three with 158 points. Cal State Fullerton finished fourth with 131 points, with UC Riverside and Pacific completing the poll in fifth and sixth place with 114 and 91 points.

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