CSUN Fights to the End, but Falls at USC, 95-79

Box Score - CSUN at USC

By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director, Strategic Communications

Los Angeles, Ca. –
Just before the tipoff at Tuesday night's basketball game between Cal State Northridge and USC, the "mental game plan" needed a supreme effort against a Pac-12 opponent with size, strength and depth.

USC's 17-man roster included a 7-foot-2, 270 center (Omar Oraby), a 7-foot, 250-pound forward (D.J. Haley), a 6-foot-10, 220 forward (Nikola Jovanovic), and a 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward (Strahinja Gavrilovic).

The Matadors had eleven players available and a starting front line that checked in at 6-foot-9 (Tre Hale-Edmerson), 6-foot-7 (Stephen Maxwell) and 6-foot-6 (Stephan Hicks).

On paper, a possible mismatch? … Cal State Northridge refused to entertain those thoughts.

Let's play !!!

CSUN jumped to a quick 5-0 lead to start the game and expanded the lead to 8-2, thanks in part to two three-pointers by Josh Greene and Landon Drew.

USC knew its superior size and depth would be put to the test. Over the next 11:51, the Trojans could not enjoy a bigger lead than three points. 

"Our guys are battling," said Theus. "We played extremely hard. Our effort was at a high level."

Tied at 21-21 at the 8:39 mark, the Trojans slowly mounted a lead that extended to eleven points, 42-31, at intermission.  

The pesky Matadors refused to fold. Two free throws by Greene moved CSUN to within four points, 58-54, with 12:22 to play.

"We became more active and started to attack the basket," said Stephen Maxwell, who collected his 16th career double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

USC's superior height, however, eventually proved to be CSUN's waterloo. A four-point lead grew to 23 points, 84-61, with 5:25 remaining on the clock.

CSUN refused to quit. Down by such a large margin would have meant most teams would have raised the surrender flag. CSUN fought to the end.

"They didn't quit," remarked Theus. "I thought our guys played extremely hard. Our effort was at a very high level. Size was certainly an issue against a big team like USC. The Trojans tallied 50 points in the paint."

Theus praised the team's hustle and determination to fight to the final buzzer. Cal State Northridge eventually fell to the Trojans, 95-79, at the Galen Center.

"When you play a team like USC that has that kind of size, and they only beat you by two rebounds (39-37), and you out rebound them on the offensive end (19-to-10), that's a positive," Theus told reporters. "It kept us in the game. We cut the Trojan margin to four points in the second half."

Foul trouble plagued the Matadors much of the evening. Four players (Stephen Maxwell, Landon Drew, Stephan Hicks, Aaron Parks) played with four fouls.

"Fouls were an issue but I thought we were able to run our offense and got some good looks," said Theus. "One thing I am not happy about is that we attempted 22 three-pointers. That is something we should not do. When you're not scoring around the basket, it makes you take more perimeter shots. You're going to live or die with those shots. USC shot 57 percent from the floor. They got 50 points in the paint."

Greene topped scoring honors in the game with 19 points along with four assists and three steals. Tre Hale-Edmerson and Aaron Parks each chipped in with eleven points. Hale-Edmerson collected nine rebounds, eight in the second half. 

Theus, who is returning to college coaching since directing the program at New Mexico State (2005-06, 2006-07), was disappointed with the loss but the high energy and enthusiasm of the college game agrees with him.

"I love college basketball," Theus told reporters. "It was nice to have a lot of friends here. As long as my team fights hard, I'm with them until the end. If we play the game with a high energy level night-in and night-out, we will win our share of games."