Jan. 14, 2009
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Riverside, Ca - Never give up!!! Don't ever give up!!!
That quote is so often used, but it was so appropriate and it certainly applied in Cal State Northridge's 64-56 victory at UC Riverside in a Big West Conference game on Wednesday night at the Student Recreation Center.
The Highlanders had been 7-0 at home this year, jumped to a 12-0 lead to start the game and led by as many as 13 points with 10:42 left in the first half. This Matador team could have easily folded its tent, but CSUN showed character, determination and grit to earn its second straight league road win, capture its third victory in the last four games, and raise its Big West Conference record to 3-1 (second place in the Big West).
"UCR shoots the ball well and plays well at home," said head coach Bobby Braswell. "I thought we just needed to weather the storm at the start of the game. I knew that when it was 12-0, I needed to call a timeout to settle the team down. I wasn't overly concerned. We missed a lot of layups in the first half and some easy baskets."
UC Riverside led the entire first half, although a late rally by Cal State Northridge cut the Highlander margin to only four points 29-25 with 1:56 remaining. However, five straight points by the Highlanders gave the home team a healthy 34-25 advantage.
"We were sluggish in the first half," said Braswell. "Give credit to UCR's defense. They also hit some big shots."
At halftime, the Matadors changed the defensive game plan a bit, going to a zone defense that appeared to frustrate UC Riverside.
"We told the team this was going to be a grinder," said Braswell. "It was going to be a game where a lot of points were not going to be scored. I appreciate how the team played in the second half. We showed some real toughness in the second half. We didn't give up. We didn't quit. The spirit and the attitude was right."
UC Riverside continued to lead the game until the 6:41 mark of the second half when Cal State Northridge went ahead, 52-51, on a layup by Willie Galick. Two free throws by Kyle Austin put the Highlanders back in front at 53-52 14 seconds later. But back came CSUN on a layup by Josh Jenkins at 5:52 to play.
The Jenkins layup gave the Matadors the lead for good. The Matadors defense continued to clamp down on UCR's shooters, and the CSUN lead extended to as many as eight points with 37 seconds to play.
The game ended with the Matadors earning their sixth of the victory of the season, 64-56.
It was certainly a tale of two halves for Cal State Northridge and UC Riverside. The Matadors shot only 29 percent (9-for-31) in the first half, but caught fire in the second half at .542 (13-for-24). UC Riverside hit .464 (13-for-28) in the first half, but connected on only 7-of-28 shots in the second half for 25 percent.
"We were a little sluggish in the first half, especially after the nine day layoff," said senior center Tremaine Townsend, who tallied 12 rebounds and eleven points. "In the second half, we showed what we are made of. UC Riverside is a good team. They work hard and are a scrappy team. We play hard, scrappy basketball like UCR in the second half."
Five Matador players tallied double-digits in scoring led by senior Rob Haynes with 14 points (5-for-8 from the floor, 4-for-5 from 3-point territory). Haynes added four rebounds in 38 minutes of play. Josh Jenkins tallied 13 points and five assists while Townsend added eleven points and Galick and Kenny Daniels added ten points apiece.
"UC Riverside hit a lot of tough shots in the first half," said Jenkins, "but we pulled it together in the second half. We worked together as a team."
Braswell added, "We have faced some adversity in the past week and the guys could have just folded the tent, but they didn't. It's a 40 minute game. The bench played extremely well. Everyone contributed."
Now the task gets tougher as the second place Matadors (3-1 in the Big West, 6-8 overall) travel to first place (4-0 BWC, 9-7 overall) Long Beach State on Saturday (January 17, 4:05 p.m.).
"These guys feel like we're underdogs right now," said Braswell. "Right now people don't think we can pull this thing out with Deon (Tresvant) and Dallas (Rutherford ) out. I just told them to give everything you have and everything will work out. We like being 3-1 (Big West record) but we have a tough game on Saturday at first place Long Beach State. We've won two games on the road, and that is important to us."
Matador Memo ...
The 64-56 victory was the ninth straight decision over UC Riverside ... Cal State Northridge has now won five straight games on UCR's home court, the Student Recreation Center ... With four 3-pointers against UC Riverside, Rob Haynes now has 138 for his career to move past Ryan Martin (1991-95, 137) into fourth place all-time at Cal State Northridge ... Tremaine Townsend had a block against the Highlanders to give him 48 for his career which ties him for fifth place all-time at CSUN with Tom Samson (1993-97).