By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Northridge, Calif. – The difference between being atop the Big West Conference standings and at the bottom of the league can be so close.
Entering Saturday night's league contest against the Cal State Fullerton Titans, Cal State Northridge had lost its first two league games by ONLY four points. The first loss was a 74-71 decision at Hawai'i (1/29/13) and then a 65-64 upset loss to UC Riverside (1/3/13).
The Matadors had another opportunity to move its way back up the conference ladder with a win over their rival Titans. But Cal State Fullerton is a talented, veteran team that is considered a contender for the league title.
CSF's team and individual stats entering the game proved it. The Titans led the league in scoring (84.1 ppg), field goal percentage (.501), three-point field goal percentage (.411), free throw percentage (.776) and scoring margin (+9.5). Kwame Vaughn and D.J. Seeley were 1-2 in the conference in scoring at 19.5 and 18.7 ppg, respectively.
And the Titans didn't disappoint their fans with a 105-86 victory over Cal State Northridge at The Matadome.
Seeley surpassed his previous career-best 32 points earlier this year by piling up 37 points (10-for-17 from the floor, 13-for-15 from the free throw line). Vaughn added 22 points while Yeager chipped in 21 points.
Cal State Fullerton shot .586 (34-for-58) from the floor.
Despite the gaudy statistics for Cal State Fullerton, the Matadors were able to keep the game within reach in the second half. Despite a 50-39 half time lead for Cal State Fullerton, CSUN cut the Titans lead to only eight points, 63-55, with 14:48 remaining in the game.
But Cal State Fullerton had too much offensively firepower. In the next 9:27, the Titans outscored the Matadors, 30-16, to take a 93-71 lead.
"Give Fullerton credit," said Braswell. "They are a talented team. They really can handle the ball and they can spread you out. We just couldn't get any resistance defensively."
Stephen Maxwell collected his second double-double in the last three games with 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Matadors attack.
"Stephen (Maxwell) gave a great effort every minute he was on the floor, both offensively and defensively," said Braswell. "We knew we had to take advantage with the size that we had (over CSF). We asked him to get low (in the post) and work, and we did a good job of getting him the ball."
Stephan Hicks added 20 points, six rebounds and three steals.
"People know who he is and they are going to make things difficult for him," said Braswell. "And I thought he responded well, particularly offensively in the second half."
"We did what we needed to do offensively (86 points)," said Braswell. "But we never felt comfortable defensively. They (CSF) attacked the rim and when we collapsed and helped, they were able to hit some big shots (12-for-23 from behind the arc). They are a very talented basketball team. It's difficult to slow them down. We were on our heels defensively the entire night."
The loss dropped Cal State Northridge to 9-6 overall and 0-3 in the Big West Conference. Cal State Fullerton is 8-6 overall and 2-1 in the conference.
"We're a young basketball team and we have enjoyed some success," said Braswell. "People have scouted you. People have watched you and know what you are doing. If you don't show up for conference play, you are going to get beat. In the last couple games, I don't think we have really showed up and played the way we are capable of playing. I don't think we have played Northridge basketball."
Matador Memo …
Saturday's game was the 1500th in the 55-year history of Matador basketball … Wednesday (1/9/13), Cal State Northridge travels to Long Beach State to meet the two-time defending Big West regular season champions … The 49ers defeated UC Santa Barbara, 77-70, Saturday night … For the first time in 15 games, Cal State Northridge switched its starting lineup … Trevone Williams and Donovan Johnson earned starting roles … Williams responded with ten points and four rebounds … Williams has now scored in double figures in five of the last seven games.