By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Long Beach, Calif. – All that a head basketball coach can ever ask is to have the team give its best effort.
If you win, great. If you don't win, no complaints. You played to your potential.
Entering Wednesday night's Big West Conference game at Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge didn't have the services of two of its starters. Guard Josh Greene was serving a one-game suspension, and fellow starter Allan Guei was not cleared to play by the team's medical staff after suffering a concussion in practice on Monday.
During shoot-around earlier that day, Braswell told the team to play "with all your heart. Give it your best effort. Let's play Northridge Basketball."
The task was formidable against a tall, athletic and experienced Long Beach State team on their home court, the Walter Pyramid. The 49ers (the two-time defending Big West regular season champions) had won six straight games against CSUN, so the odds were stacked against the undermanned Matadors.
Long Beach State appeared ready to bury the Matadors in the first half, racing to double-digit leads (10 points) on two occasions.
But Cal State Northridge didn't budge and stood its ground against Long Beach State, the league's pre-season favorite. A late first half rally gave CSUN a 35-30 lead at 4:02.
Back came Long Beach State to take a 39-38 half time lead.
In the second half, CSUN elevated its game with a lineup that included players that had played little in the previous 15 games. At one point in the second half, the CSUN backcourt consisted by Ian Clark and Lonnie Watson, two walkons. But both players played like All-Americans and helped the Matadors produce a 55-48 lead with 11:16 remaining in the game.
But the Matadors couldn't keep pace. Long Beach State went on a 13-0 run in the next eight minutes to take a lead the 49ers would never relinquish, 61-55. Cal State Northridge didn't help its cause with missed free throws and several turnovers.
The LBS lead grew to as many as 13 points (72-59, 1:37) before settling for a 78-69 final victory over Cal State Northridge.
Even in defeat, Braswell praised the effort of the heavily underdog Matadors.
"We played extremely hard and extremely competitive when you consider that our two (top) guards (Josh Greene, Allan Guei) were not able to play tonight," said Braswell. "I asked the team to step out on the court and give it their best effort. We did that tonight"
The Matadors started the game with three freshmen (Landon Drew, Donovan Johnson, Trevone Williams) and two sophomores (Stephan Hicks, Stephen Maxwell) and represented themselves well, according to Braswell.
"Also give credit to our reserves like Ian Clark and Lonnie Watson, two little-used players who really gave us a spark. Both of them made some big plays."
Stephan Hicks and Landon Drew each got extended minutes in the game. Hicks played 36 minutes while Drew tallied 31 minutes, both season-highs. Hicks tied his career-high with 26 points (9-for-10 from the free throw line) while battling LBS' taller front line with eight rebounds. Drew collected eight points and five rebounds.
Stephen Maxwell had his second straight double-double with ten points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
"I can't complain at all about the effort," said Braswell, who also praised the team for outrebounding the 49ers, 38-32.
Cal State Northridge fell to 9-7 overall and 0-4 in the conference. Long Beach State is 7-8 overall and 3-1 in league competition.
CSUN is hoping the energy and enthusiasm from Wednesday night's game will carry over to Saturday's game at UC Irvine. Game time is 4:00 pm.
"This was good step in the right direction," said Braswell. "We had not been playing well lately. If we can build off this effort, it will be a good thing."
Matador Memo …
The lead changed hands 15 times, and the game was tied eight times … Little-used reserves Ian Clark and Lonnie Watson each scored a career-high six points … Clark had only played eleven minutes in five games this year … Wednesday night at Long Beach State, Clark played a season-high nine minutes … In addition to his six points, Clark collected an assist and steal … Watson had played only 20 minutes in six games this season … Against Long Beach State, Watson had a season-high 15 minutes which included two rebounds, two assists and two steals … Freshman Landon Drew made his first collegiate start against LBS.