Feb. 25, 2009
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Northridge, Calif. - Somehow, someway, the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team gets the job done.
Down three players (Josh Jenkins, Deon Tresvant, Therin Taylor) to a determined UC Santa Barbara team that had won three straight games over the Matadors at The Matadome, the Cal State Northridge defense kicked into high gear in the second half to stage a dramatic 62-57 come-from-behind victory over the Gauchos in an important Big West Conference game on Wednesday night on the Matadors home floor.
"I told the guys that we needed to find a way to scrape out a victory," said Matador head coach Bobby Braswell. "I want to give the team a lot of credit. They showed a lot of heart, fight and toughness. This was a gut-check win for us."
The Gauchos jumped to an 11-4 lead with 15:48 in the first half, held a 12-point advantage on two occasions in the first 20 minutes, led the entire first half, and maintained a 29-23 advantage at the break.
"The way we played and to be down by only six at the half, we were very, very blessed," admitted Braswell, whose Matadors only shot 31 percent in the first half. "Give UCSB a lot of credit. They came out strong. They caught us off-guard a little bit. But we came back. These guys are warriors."
Junior Vincent Cordell admitted, "we were sluggish and not to ready to play at the start."
UCSB extended their lead to 13 points, 42-29, with 15:00 to play, and all indications were that the Gauchos were going to win their fourth straight game against Cal State Northridge at The Matadome.
Not so fast!!!
The Cal State Northridge defense, which had helped contribute to a recent six-game winning streak, literally stopped the Gaucho offense in the next 4:57 seconds. A 15-2 CSUN run tied the game at 44-44 with 10:03 to play.
Then the Matadors took the first lead of the game, 46-44, with 7:51 to play on two free throws by Vincent Cordell.
With the game tied at 48-48 with 4:07 to play, Cal State Northridge scored nine straight points in a four-minute stretch while holding the Gauchos scoreless.
From there, the Gauchos could not get any closer than three points, 60-57, with four seconds to play.
Two free throws by Willie Galick gave the Matadors the final margin of victory, 62-57.
"I told the team, don't worry about the offense, concentrate on the defense," said Braswell. "That turned the game around in the second half."
Once again, the Matador reserves came to the rescue. Rodrigue Mels collected a career-high 19 points (9-for-12 from the free throw line) along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals in 29 minutes of play at the point-guard position. Vincent Cordell also came off the bench to tally double-digits with ten points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 23 minutes.
"This was one of my last games as a senior at The Matadome and I wanted to step up," said Mels, whose previous career-high was 18 points in two games last year.
Kenny Daniels scored 13 points along with a career-high nine rebounds.
The Matadors held UCSB to a .375 (18-for-48) shooting percentage, .227 (5-for-22) from behind the arc, out rebounded the visitors (34-28), and forced UCSB into 26 turnovers.
The Matador defense also held UCSB's top scorer, Chris Devine, to only five shots and nine points.
"This win was a big boost for us," said Cordell. "UCSB is a good team, but our defense contributed to this win."
Now, the tension builds as Cal State Northridge hosts Long Beach State in a huge conference game on Saturday (February 28, 3:00 p.m.) on Senior Day. All five Matador seniors (Rob Haynes, Josh Jenkins, Rodrigue Mels, Tremaine Townsend, Deon Tresvant) will be honored following the game.
The victory over UCSB gave Cal State Northridge a half-game lead in the Big West Conference standings. The Matadors are 9-4 in the conference while Long Beach State is 8-4. The 49ers hosts UC Irvine on Thursday night.
The CSUN-LBS game is also the final home regular season contest for the Matadors. The players and coaches are hoping for the largest crowd of the season.
Josh Jenkins, who was seriously injured in a single car accident on February 14, was recently released from the hospital, attended the game and sat on the Matadors bench ... Therin Taylor, who has provided quality minutes as a reserve in recent games, did not suit up because of the flu ... Twenty-three straight games Rob Haynes has hit at least one three-pointer ... Tonight against UC Santa Barbara, Haynes hit two three-pointers to give him 157 three-pointers in his four-year Matador career, second-best in CSUN history ... Haynes has now played in 113 games in four seasons at CSUN, seven games short of the school record held by Jonathan Heard (2004-08) ... Cal State Northridge collected season-highs in free throws (27), free throw attempts (37) and steals (15).