SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Led by Stephan Hicks and Aqeel Quinn who finished with a team-high 18 and 12 points respectively, Cal State Northridge fell to UC Santa Barbara 69-61 in Thursday night's Big West game at The Thunderdome.
The Matadors (5-11, 2-4 BWC) will complete their Central California road swing Saturday afternoon, at Cal Poly (11-8, 2-4 BWC), in a 5 p.m. conference game that will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
Possessing the lead for almost the entire first half, UCSB's (9-6, 4-1 BWC) three-point shooting was the main reason why the Matadors entered the locker room trailing 31-22.
Northridge only scored one first half field goal scored from distance, compared to Santa Barbara's four, with the difference represented in the deficit the Matadors faced after 20 minutes of action.
Once both teams returned to the court, CSUN immediately forced three straight UCSB turnovers and quickly capitalized on those opportunities.
In addition to its stellar defense, a three-pointer by Vinnie McGhee, a jumper and a dunk by Stephan Hicks brought the Matador deficit down to a slim two-point margin.
Fouled while scoring two of his eight points, Stephen Maxwell gave Northridge its first lead of the evening moments later when he connected on his only free throw opportunity of the evening to complete the three-point play.
Maxwell also finished with a team-high eight rebounds.
Also responsible for the last four points scored in the first half, Northridge scored a combined 15 unanswered points before Santa Barbara scored its first basket of the second half.
CSUN's lead was short-lived, however, as the Gauchos responded with a 26-7 run of their own to take the lead for good.
Down by as many as 17 in the second half, Northridge scored eight straight points throughout a two-minute timespan late in the game to pull within seven.
Thanks to the efforts of Michael Lizarraga, Northridge still had a chance to erase Santa Barbara's double-digit lead, for the second time in the game, with 66 seconds remaining in the contest.
By diving after loose balls, crashing the boards on offense, and converting on a three-point play of his own, Lizarraga's energy and enthusiasm fueled CSUN's final scoring run of the night.
The senior forward finished with five points, and tied his season high by collecting seven of his team's 37 rebounds.
"I am very proud of how hard our guys worked and competed," said Northridge head coach Bobby Braswell. "Playing against a team that has made the NCAA Tournament two years in a row, with veteran seniors playing at home, we just did not make our shots tonight."
CSUN ended the evening shooting 24-of-72 (33.3 percent) from the field, 4-of-23 (17.4 percent) from behind the arc, and 9-of-13 (69.2 percent) from the free throw line.
Santa Barbara shot 26-of-53 (49.1 percent) from the field, 7-of-23 (30.4 percent) from three-point distance, and was 10-of-13 (76.9 percent) from the line.
Entering Thursday's game, Northridge won seven of the 10 previous head-to-head games, including three of the last four played in Santa Barbara.