Feb. 14, 2009
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Northridge, Calif. - A season-high six straight wins, another strong defensive effort, another dose of solid play by the team's reserves, and Bobby Braswell's 200th victory as head coach at Cal State Northridge.
All in all, a pretty productive evening of basketball on Valentines Day on Saturday at The Matadome as Cal State Northridge retained its hold on first place in the Big West Conference with a 77-64 victory over a tough UC Riverside team.
On November 23, 1996, Braswell coached his first game at Cal State Northridge against UNLV. His first victory came four days later in a 77-57 decision over Cal State Dominguez Hills. His 100th victory was netted on Dec. 4, 2002, with a 64-61 decision at the University of San Diego.
Braswell told reporters he didn't realize the win over UC Riverside was his 200th at CSUN. Braswell acknowledged he is grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach at his alma mater for 13 seasons.
"This is just a small blessing from God that I appreciate," said Braswell. "It has been a trying year but this team has stayed strong through the adversity. They have shown a lot of courage and a lot of heart. I never thought I would be at Northridge for 13 years. This is just a small reward for all the hard work and dedication by the players who have come through this program. I thank all the players and all the (assistant) coaches who have contributed to this (200 wins).
Josh Jenkins, still a little bothered by an ankle injury suffered earlier in the week, came off the bench to score 19 points, dish out seven assists, grab four rebounds and collect two steals in 23 minutes of play. Rodrigue Mels again provided a valuable resource off the bench with 16 points (6-for-9 from the field) in 20 minutes of action. Tremaine Townsend added ten points (5-for-7 from the floor) and a game-high nine rebounds in 31 minutes.
UC Riverside held a 22-16 lead with 7:15 remaining in the first half, but a 13-6 run gave the home team a 29-26 halftime lead.
"This was a grinder," said Braswell. "I told the team this was not going to be pretty. UC Riverside is a position-defense team. It makes it very difficult for you to score. On the offensive end, UCR sets a lot of screens. They move deep into the clock, and they are still able to get a shot. But I'm proud of our team. They played better in the second half defensively which gave us a chance to win."
The Matadors defense did, indeed, put a stranglehold on UC Riverside in the second half. At one point, the Highlanders did not score a basket for nearly eight minutes. While the Matador defense was doing its job, the offense was mounting a double-digit lead that grew to as many as 15 points, 77-62, with 1:32 to play.
After giving up 91 points in a four point loss to Cal State Fullerton (1/21/09), Braswell said for the next two days after that game, the team practiced without barely touching the basketball. The practice plan worked.
"Our guys have made a commitment to defending," said Braswell. "Normally before games, we put up our defensive and offensive goals. But we have not put up any offensive goals, just defensive ones. We really don't talk about offense too much. And our seniors have really stepped up, and are constantly telling everyone else about making defensive stops."
The Matadors have won six straight games, held the opposition to only .377 shooting (119-for-316) during that time, have forced the opposition into 105 turnovers, stolen the ball 45 times, and have out rebounded the opposition in all six games, including a 31-28 advantage in Saturday's victory over UCR.
"Learning to play Northridge defense is not easy," said Jenkins. "It takes a lot of heart and commitment. Everybody has to contribute. We rely on each other to get the job done defensively.
Townsend offered his appraisal of the turnaround since the start of the 2008-09 season.
"Everybody is buying into the system," said Townsend, who is trying to win the Big West rebound title (8.6 rpg) for a second straight season. "We had a lot of new players when we started the year. It took a little longer than expected to jell together. We have now figured out our roles and to learn what coach Braswell wants us to do to play defense. We're getting better every day."
Unheralded throughout the season, Kenny Daniels performed like a blue collar worker going to work to put in another hard day's work. Daniels, a starter in 17 games, tallied 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 23 minutes.
"Kenny is such force for us," said Braswell. "He does what we need him to do defensively. His rebounding and scoring stats are continuing to get better. There are more good days ahead for Kenny."
Cal State Northridge, now 12-10 overall and 8-3 in the Big West, returns to practice on Monday and Tuesday in preparation for their next league game at UC Irvine on Wednesday (2/18/08, 8:00 p.m.). The game will be televised on ESPNU.
"We talk with the team about the journey," said Braswell. "During the journey there is going to be some ups and downs, highs and lows. But you have to be consistent with your effort and your attitude. That's what this team has done. I'm very blessed and thankful that the guys have responded."
Matador Memo ...
Rob Haynes hit another three-pointer against UC Riverside, the 20th straight game he has made at least one basket from behind the arc ... Haynes has now started 87 games in four seasons at Cal State Northridge, fifth-best in school history.