Nov. 23, 2009
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - Winning on the road is never easy, but traveling across the country to take on a team that had won 14 straight and 28 of the last 29 on its home court is a difficult task.
Cal State Northridge (1-3) was up to the task on Monday night at E.A. Diddle Arena and did everything but come out with a victory as Western Kentucky (2-1) pulled out a last second 68-67 win.
Kenny Daniels paced the Matadors for the second straight game as the senior scored 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Senior Mark Hill and junior Rashaun McLemore added 11 points apiece with Hill adding five assists in his best game of the young season.
Fellow senior Willie Galick added eight points and four rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds. Tony Osunsanmi came off the bench to match Michael Lizarraga with a team-high seven rebounds as Northridge won the battle of the boards with the taller Hilltoppers 35-31.
The Matadors also shot 51.0% (26-51) from the field and held WKU to 42.9% (25-61) field goal shooting. Northridge, however, committed at least 20 turnovers for the fourth straight game.
"Ultimately, the thing that hurt us was we turned the ball over too much," said Matador Head Coach Bobby Braswell. "When we did get stops, and we did get stops, we gave them second shots and that's what's going to hurt you a lot."
Sergio Kerusch led the Hilltoppers with a game-high 24 points hitting 10 of 15 shots (2-for-5 from three-point range). Kerusch also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds and hit a pair of crucial baskets down the stretch.
Northridge held a slim 36-34 lead at halftime, the first time this season the Matadors took a lead into the locker room at the break. McLemore's layup with 7:53 left in the opening half gave Northridge its largest lead at 25-18. But an 8-0 WKU run over the next three minutes quickly erased the lead and Kerusch's layup put the Hilltoppers back in front 26-25.
The teams traded baskets over the final four minutes before Vincent Cordell's tip-in with 54 seconds left sent the Matadors to the break leading 36-34.
The Northridge lead swelled to as many as eight (46-38) in the opening minutes of the second half. The Matadors also led by eight at 48-40 on a Galick layup with 14:01 left before Anthony Sally nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to five. Northrdge maintained at least a five-point cushion until AJ Slaughter hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 52-50 with 10:20 remaining.
After the Hilltoppers tied the score at 52-52, Raymond Cody was fouled while converting a layup and made the ensuing free throw to boost the lead back to three. A Kerusch dunk with 6:38 left gave WKU its first lead at 56-55 with 6:38 left before McLemore answered with five straight points on a layup and a trey and the Matadors were back up by four at 60-56.
Daniels made one of two free throws in the final minutes and the Matadors led by four (64-60) with 1:51 left. Kerusch cut the lead to one with a three and then hit a jumper to cap a 7-0 run giving WKU a 67-64 lead with 20 seconds left. But Galick found Cordell open for a game-tying three pointer with eight seconds left before Galick was whistled for a block at midcourt on the ensuing inbounds play.
After missing the first free throw, Sally made the second and Hill's three-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out.
"Our guys really showed a lot of heart and courage in a hostile environment and played good basketball," said Braswell.
Cal State Northridge completes the Dick's Sporting Goods Preseason Tip-Off on Tuesday as the Matadors take on Coastal Carolina at 2:30 p.m. PST.
- GO MATADORS -