January 28, 2012

Matadors Snap Three-Game Skid with 76-68 Win at CSU Bakersfield

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Led by Stephan Hicks and his career-high 26 points, four Northridge starters scored 10 or more points to help the Matadors defeat the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners 76-68 in Saturday's road non-conference game.

With the win, Cal State Northridge (6-13) snapped its three-game losing streak, avenged its loss to Bakersfield suffered last November, and ended the Roadrunners' three-game, head-to-head win streak.

The win was the Matadors' first over CSUB (11-11) since Nov. 30, 2009, the team's first in Bakersfield since Jan. 13, 1990, and the first earned by a Big West team against the Roadrunners this season.

Prior to Saturday night's meeting, the Roadrunners were victorious in all six previously played games against teams from the Big West. In addition to defeating the Matadors earlier this season, Bakersfield also earned in a win against Cal Poly, and both games against Cal State Fullerton and Pacific.

In addition to Hicks, Josh Greene, Stephen Maxwell, and Ari Feldman recorded 16, 12, and 10 points respectively.

Ending his evening a perfect 5-for-5 from the field, and 3-for-3 from three, Greene's 16 points were the most scored by the sophomore guard since his 20-point performance against San Diego Christian last November.

Earning his first-ever double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds) in his inaugural game in a Northridge uniform against the very same Cal State Bakersfield team last November, Maxwell recorded 12 points and three rebounds in Saturday's return matchup. This is the third time this season that Maxwell finished scored double figures, two of which were earned against the Roadrunners.

As was the case with Greene, Feldman was also perfect from the field, tying his career high for the third time this season with his 10-point effort. The senior forward made all four shots taken against the Roadrunners, including two from behind the arc.

Four of the five Northridge starters ended with double-digit point totals; even though he was the odd starter out, Vinnie McGhee still found other ways to help his team's cause.

Responsible for a career-high five steals out of the 12 earned by Northridge, McGhee also recorded six of CSUN's 18 assists. Single-handedly responsible for forcing five of Bakersfield's 20 turnovers, McGhee's efforts helped his team score 35 of its points off Roadrunner miscues.

Leading by six points at halftime, Northridge built a lead as large as 13 before the Roadrunners started to crawl its way back into contention.

With Bakersfield trailing by four with less than a minute remaining in the game, the Matadors forced Roadrunners guard Donald Johnson to take an ill-advised jump shot, and quickly responded by sinking consecutive free throws on the other end of the court after the Roadrunners were forced to foul to stop the clock.

Thanks to Hicks and Greene who were a combined 4-for-5 from the free throw line throughout the final minute of action, and a Matador defense that forced Bakersfield to turn the ball over on two of its final four possessions, CSUN was able to all but officially earn its sixth win of the season by building its lead to a more comfortable nine-point margin with 17 seconds left in the game.

"We have really played well two games in a row," said Northridge head coach Bobby Braswell. "Going back to Cal Poly, even though the scoreboard did not show it, we really played hard and that is all that I can ask my guys to do."

Entering the Icardo Center possessing the highest free throw percentage in the Big West, the Matadors connected on 18-of-23 (78.3 percent) free throw attempts.  

"To win games, teams need to make their free throws. One thing we have done well all year is step up to the line and make our shots. It takes courage to make free throws during those tough situations," said Braswell.

As a team, Northidge set a new season high with its 61.0 field goal percentage. Obliterating their previous high of 52.5 percent originally set at home against UC Davis (1/14/12), the Matadors shot 25-for-41 from the field, and were 8-for-15 from behind the arc.

"In the last couple of days we have focused our efforts on executing on offense, everything came together," said Braswell. "As the only Big West team to defeat Bakersfield, let alone at their place, it is a good win for us."

Northridge will return to The Matadome on Thursday, Feb. 2, against against UC Santa Barbara. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

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