February 28, 2008
That all came to an abrupt end on Thursday night in the hostile environment of Titan Gym as Heard and Chitwood combined for 29 points and 13 rebounds to help propel the first place Matadors to a highly emotional, tough, hard-fought 82-74 victory over the second place Titans.
From the opening tipoff, both teams went at each other like championship boxers. Cal State Northridge finally delivered the knockout punch in the final 53 seconds when Josh Jenkins hit five free throws and Chitwood added a solo free throw to give the Matadors their 19th victory this season (19-7) and a first place Big West mark of 11-2.
"We stepped up when we needed too," said Heard, who collected a game-high 19 points along with ten rebounds, three assists and two steals. "We were tough from start to finish ... from the point-guard position to the center position. Give credit to Cal State Fullerton. They're a great team, but we also played with a lot of heart."
Before each game, the Matador coaching staff sets several key goals including keeping the opposition to under 40 percent shooting and out rebounding the opponent. Cal State Northridge set all their goals against Cal State Fullerton. The Titans were held to only .371 shooting (23-for-62), .136 (3-for-22) from three-point range, and out rebounded the home team, 48-36.
"In our last game with them (A 80-72 CSF win), they beat us up on the boards," said Matador head coach Bobby Braswell. "I told the team that the game would come down rebounding. Our team showed a lot of heart and a lot of tenacity."
Cal State Northridge held a 36-30 halftime lead, but the Titans cut it to one point, 38-37, with less than two minutes into the final half. The Matadors took CSF's punch, but the Matadors landed a few of their own, and jumped the lead back to six points, 47-41, with 16:25 to play.
The Titans took their biggest lead of the game, 52-50, with 12:53 to play, but again the Matadors would not fold. At the 8:46 mark, Rob Haynes hit a three-pointer to give the Matadors a 60-58 lead. Cal State Northridge would not lose the lead again.
Cal State Fullerton mounted several rallies to either tie the game or pull ahead, but time and time again, the Matadors responded with a key basket. With 5:39 to play, CSF pulled to within two points, only to have Heard hit a three-pointer. A minute later, the Titans again cut the lead to two points, but Chitwood nailed a jumper. With 2:30 to play, two free throws by CSF's Frank Robinson cut the Matador lead to three points, but Deon Tresvant answered with a three-pointer.
"This was obviously a big win for us," said Braswell. "We've had some tough losses recently (73-72 to Rider, 78-73 in overtime to Pacific), but tonight we put together a great effort."
Once again, the Matador bench proved to be a highly valuable asset. Haynes, Tresvant and Chitwood combined for 34 bench points compared to only 13 for the Titans.
Braswell also praised the highly vocal following of fans and students who rooted for Cal State Northridge.
"This was a great crowd that rooted for us," said Braswell. "It was great to see our fans and students show up and show their great support. It was great for the team. They gave our team a good boost."
Cal State Northridge now travels to UC Irvine on Saturday (3/1/08, 8:30 p.m.) in a game to be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Then it's back home on March 6 to finish the league regular season against pre-season league favorite UC Santa Barbara (7:00 p.m.) and Cal Poly on Saturday, March 8. Tipoff is slated for 5:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. "Our focus is to take one game at a time," said Braswell.
Matador Minute ... Calvin Chitwood, who suffered his second high ankle sprain last week (2/20/08) at Long Beach State, came back sooner than expected and played 16 minutes with ten points (4-for-6 from the floor) ... Evan Scott, a redshirt freshman forward, is also back on the active roster ... Scott had missed the last 17 games with a torn ligament in his right thumb ... The victory over Cal State Northridge ended the Titans eight-game winning streak over the Matadors ... Nineteen points by senior all-conference candidate Jonathan Heard gave him 1,326 points for his career to move past Andre Chevalier (1997-01, 1,311 points) into third place all-time in career scoring at Cal State Northridge ... Heard's seven field goals against CSF gives him 484 for his career to move him past Jim Malkin (1959-62, 480) into fifth place all-time at CSUN ... Heard had 13 field goal attempts against the Titans and now has 1,001 for his career, good for fourth all-time at CSUN ... With six free throw attempts at Cal State Fullerton, Heard now has 483 for his career to move past Ian Boylan (2001-05, 480) into third place all-time at Cal State Northridge ... Tremaine Townsend had two blocks against Cal State Fullerton to give him 30 for the season, and now is only two short of the school record set by Thomas Shewmake (2005-06).