March 6, 2010
By Lee Barnathan
Northridge, Calif. - They honored the six seniors Saturday night, thanking them for their contributions that included consecutive Big West Conference titles and an NCAA Tournament berth.
Unfortunately, the seniors and their teammates never were in this one as Pacific took it to the Matadors early and never let up, cruising to a 66-47 victory at The Matadome.
The 47 points was the second-fewest CSUN (11-20 overall , 6-10 BWC) scored this season, after the 43 it scored at Pacific. The Matadors also made just one 3-pointer in 15 attempts, tying a season low. And this was coach Bobby Braswell's first 20-loss season in his 14 years.
"Not fun," Braswell said.
The loss, coupled with UC Irvine's comeback victory in overtime against Cal Poly, dropped the Matadors to the eighth and lowest seed for the conference tournament, so they will open Wednesday against No. 5 Cal State Fullerton at the Anaheim Convention Center. CSUN split with the Titans, winning at Fullerton and losing the historic triple-overtime game at The Matadome.
Senior Kenny Daniels appeared ready to play, scoring 13 of his 17 points in the first half. But no one joined him.
"Kenny was solid," Braswell said. "He played better than anyone tonight. It was good to see a senior step up like that, but it would've been nice if he had gotten some help."
In fact, senior Willie Galick helped with eight of his 13 points in the second half, but by then the Tigers (20-10, 12-4) had built a double-digit lead.
Pacific showed why it shared the conference title with UC Santa Barbara. The Tigers came out strong, scored the first 10 points and had a 17-5 lead with 12 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the first half.
Led by Sam Willard's 20 points (14 in the first half) and 10 rebounds, and Terrell Smith's career-high 19 points, the Tigers led by 14 at the half and built the lead to as many as 24.
"We came out real flat and they came out real aggressive," senior Mark Hill said. "They hit us and we didn't hit back."
Pacific's defensive pressure down low also contributed to the Matadors missing 13 layups.
Hill expressed optimism that they could turn it around by Wednesday -- perhaps a tall order considering the team's inconsistencies this season. But Braswell knows it's possible. He recalled that the 2005 Matador squad also was rudderless and had issues heading into the conference tournament.
It got so bad in the days leading up that Braswell kicked the players out of practice. After that, the players "got together, figured some things out, and played four games in four nights and lost the championship by a point," Braswell said.
Included in that run was an opening win against Cal State Fullerton and an upset of Utah State, then ranked in the top 25. It was Pacific that ended the Matadors' dream.
"This team has got to find itself in the next couple of days," Braswell said. "We've got to find some leaders, somehow, some way. We've missed that all year. I don't know how we'll do it (but) I think it's possible. I know it can be done."
The Matadors finished 7-6 at home ... Because this was Senior Night, Braswell started five of the six seniors: Vincent Cordell, Willie Galick, Mark Hill, Kenny Daniels and Therin Taylor -- CSUN's 16th different starting lineup ... Tony Osunsanmi was the lone non-starting senior. ... The Matadors in the Big West this season: They swept UC Riverside, split with Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis. They were swept by UC Irvine, Long Beach State and Pacific. ... CSUN already has set a school record for free-throw attempts ... With Saturday's 20, the Matadors have attempted 905 ... That ranks third nationally, behind Kansas State and Morgan State ... From the hard-to-believe dept.: Last-place UC Riverside has won more games (12) than the Matadors (11).