Dec. 22, 2008
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
San Diego, Calif. - The Cal State Northridge men's basketball team has now finished a non-league schedule that Bobby Braswell says is one of the toughest he has faced since he became head coach of the Matadors 13 seasons ago.
And as he reminded the players after the game, you don't earn league championships during the non-league part of the schedule. Despite a 3-7 overall record, the Matadors are 0-0 in the Big West Conference as they enter league play on Monday, December 29, at Cal State Fullerton. Last year, Cal State Northridge earned a share of the league title at 12-4 with Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara.
Monday night at Cox Arena at Aztec Bowl, Cal State Northridge played perhaps its second best opponent on the non-league slate (behind UCLA), and the Aztecs (who were among the nation's leaders in scoring defense entering the game at 55.5 ppg) forced the Matadors into 22 turnovers, and held CSUN's top two scorers (Tremaine Townsend and Willie Galick) to five points in a 72-56 victory.
"We took a little step backward with the 20 turnovers, but give San Diego State credit because of their pressure defense," said Braswell. "But as I told the team, we have played seven tough games on the road. I think the tough schedule will make us a better team as we enter league play."
Cal State Northridge battled the Aztecs to nearly a draw during a major portion of the first half. A three-pointer by Deon Tresvant and a a free throw by Josh Jenkins gave the Matadors their biggest lead of the game, 13-9, with 10:51 left in the first stanza.
But the Aztecs, picked to finish as high as second in the Mountain West Conference, mounted their own rally in the next 90 seconds with a 9-0 run that gave SDSU an 18-13 lead. Cal State Northridge refused to fold, getting five straight points from Tresvant (including a three-pointer) to tie the game at 18-18 with 8:10 left.
Xavier Crawford's layup gave the Matadors a 20-18 lead, but back came San Diego State. A 13-2 run gave the Aztecs a 31-22 lead with 2:59 remaining, and SDSU built the lead to 12 points, 39-27, at halftime.
"San Diego State is a very talented team," said Braswell. "They can score in a lot of different ways. They have some big, strong players who can make it tough for you on the inside. The Aztecs also set great screens for their guards to get good shots."
The Aztecs kept the momentum on their side in the opening minutes of the second half, building a 48-32 lead with 15:48 remaining.
SDSU's biggest lead of the game was 19 points, 60-41, with 10:53 left. The Matadors could get no closer than 13 points, 65-52, with 4:55 left.
"I can't fault our team for the way they competed tonight," said Braswell. "We fought and competed. The second half was split into three different categories. In the last six to seven minutes of the game, I thought we really played well defensively. The middle part of the second half we played well, but we struggled during the early parts of the second half."
Coming off a season-best 25 points against Pepperdine, Tresvant led the Matadors with 18 points along with four rebounds in 33 minutes. His seven baskets included four 3-pointers.
"We were able to get Deon the ball tonight," said Braswell. "That is the Deon we all know and love. It's good to see the intensity when he plays. He's also playing well defensively."
Josh Jenkins was the only other double-digit scorer for Cal State Northridge with eleven points.
Despite a physical front line for San Diego State, the Matadors owned the rebound battle, 32-28. Tremaine Townsend led Matador rebounders with six along with two blocks, two assists and a steal in 28 minutes.