By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
San Diego, Calif. – Cal State Northridge is off to its best start since the Matadors joined the ranks of the NCAA Division I.
The Matadors have the started the 2012-13 season with an impressive 5-0 record, besting the previous mark of 4-0 to start the 2007-08 campaign.
Saturday night's victory was no fluke. The Matadors defeated an excellent Tulsa team from a strong league (Conference USA) and well-coached by Danny Manning, a former NBA standout and Kansas' all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Cal State Northridge handed Tulsa its first loss (3-1) of the season, churning out a 92-76 knockout during third round action at the NUCDF Challenge at USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion.
"This group really deserves the accolades," said veteran head coach Bobby Braswell. "This group has really bought into what we are trying to accomplish. They love each other. They play for each other. There are no individuals. They are playing as a team. I am blessed to have a team like this."
Cal State Northridge is the only unbeaten team in the ten-team Big West Conference.
The Matadors started fast against Tulsa. The team enjoyed an 18-9 lead (9:24 remaining in the first half) with Stephan Hicks pacing the CSUN attack with seven of his 16 points. However, a 13-3 run by Tulsa gave the Golden Hurricane a 22-21 lead with 5:25 remaining on the first half clock.
Then junior guard Josh Greene pushed his game into high gear. Greene scored ten of his career-high 28 points during a five-minute span to propel CSUN to a 40-26 lead at halftime.
"Josh struggled early but he pulled it together and hit some big shots," said Braswell. "That was an MVP style of game for Josh. We needed that from him tonight."
In addition to the 28 points, Greene tallied 14-of-14 free throws, second-best for a single game in the 55-year history of Matador basketball. Greene also dished out seven assists along with five steals and one block.
A Stephen Maxwell jumper pushed CSUN to its biggest lead of the game, 42-26, to start the second half.
Tulsa never surrendered. The Golden Hurricane pushed their game to a higher level and eventually came to within two points of CSUN, 61-59, with 10:01 to play in the game.
"I told the team at halftime that Tulsa would come out swinging at us in the second half," remarked Braswell. "We were either going to stay flat or we were going to pickup the level of intensity. And we responded. We challenged the team, and at one point we stopped Tulsa (from scoring) eight times in a row."
In a six-minute span, a two-point Matador lead ballooned to a 13-point margin at 76-63 with 4:09 remaining on the clock.
Tulsa fired back. The Golden Hurricane scored eight straight points to cut the CSUN lead to five points, 76-71, with 2:56 to play. But the Matadors refused to fold. Another Matador explosive scoring run upped the lead to 16 points, 90-74, with 32 seconds to play.
"This was a great team effort," said Braswell. "Offensively and defensively, we showed a lot of poise against a very good Tulsa team. We worked hard and kept our focus. We never gave in. We took some punches but we held up."