CSUN vs Cal Poly – Championship Game of the 2014 Big West Tournament
Box Score - CSUN vs Long Beach State
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletics Director, Strategic Communications
Anaheim, Calif. – Cal State Northridge vs Cal Poly.
It's the championship game of the 2014 Big West Conference Basketball Tournament that features a red hot Matador basketball team vs a Mustangs squad that has beaten CSUN twice this year.
Game time on Saturday is 7:30 pm at Honda Center.
ESPN2 will televise the game to a worldwide audience.
Let's play !!!
"Cal Poly has beaten us twice this season, and I guarantee you that tomorrow (Saturday) they will be picked to win," said Theus, who doesn't mind the role of underdogs despite the fact CSUN is seeded fifth while Cal Poly is seeded seventh. "Everywhere we go we're the underdogs. People pick the other team. And I think that's great because that fuels us. We thrive on adversity. It's what we have to fight through."
Earlier this year, the Mustangs recorded a 62-52 victory on the Mustangs home court, and followed that win with a 62-55 decision over CSUN at the Matadome.
"I guarantee you that tomorrow (Saturday) they'll have people picking them to win," Theus admits. "They're a very solid basketball team. Tournament basketball fits their style. The game becomes more of a half-court game and if we don't fight through the contact we can't win the game. That is the way they play. I thought they played more hungry and harder in the two games they won. If we don't match up at the start of the game, it's going to be hard for us."
Cal State Northridge has reached the championship tournament game with two impressive, hard-earned victories over fourth-seeded Hawai'i (87-84 overtime on Thursday) and Friday's 82-77 verdict over third-seeded Long Beach State. It was the second straight win over the 49ers this season.
"I told the team if we won the rebound battle we would win," said Theus, who surveyed the box score to see the Matadors did indeed out rebound the 49ers, 37-30. Stephen Maxwell led the Matadors with ten rebounds.
Long Beach State raced to an 18-13 lead at the 12:52 mark of the first half, but the Matadors scored 14 straight points to take a 27-18 lead at 6:16.
The Matador lead extended to 12 points, 44-32, at halftime. A .548 (17-for-31) shooting percentage for CSUN compared to only .385 (10-for-26) for the 49ers helped the Matadors reach the 12-point halftime lead.
Josh Greene scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half (5-for-5 from the floor, 3-for-3 from behind the arc).
"Every game could be my last game collegiately," Greene told reporters. "I want to be the aggressor and set the tone. If I start by being the aggressor, it puts pressure on the other team's defense."
Theus had his own version of Greene's winning ways. "The leadership that Josh has displayed has been phenomenal. He's really been the vocal leader here this week and that's what we needed."
Long Beach State refused to wilt. The 49ers started the second half with a 17-3 run to take a 49-47 lead with 15:02 remaining on the clock.
The 49ers held a 59-57 lead with 11:00 to play. Stephan Hicks then asserted his dominance with ten straight points for the Matadors. That gave the Matadors a 67-65 lead with 4:02 on the clock. CSUN never surrendered the lead, and eventually recorded the 82-77 victory over LBS.
"Once they had the run (17-3), I knew it was time for me to attack and get our team going," said Hicks who finished the evening with 27 points (13-for-13 from the free throw line) along with six rebounds.
The Matadors, who lead the nation in free throws made (747) and free throw percentage (.790, 747-for-945), hit an incredible 28-of-32 free throws for .875.
It's something we do everyday at practice, shoot free throws," said Theus. "The team thought it was silly at first, but I don't let them talk when shooting free throws. Getting to the free throw line is part of our offense. We'll pass up a good shot to try to get a good drive."
Cal State Northridge raised its season record to 17-17. Long Beach State ended its season with a 15-17 mark.