Poor defense was the determining factor for the Matadors (9-9, 0-6 Big West) in Thursday night’s 74-71 home loss to UC Davis (6-10), a game which marks CSUN’s sixth straight loss in conference play this season.
Northridge led by 11 early in the first half after a Stephen Maxwell layup, but CSUN let the Aggies finish the half on an 18-7 run which gave UC Davis a three point lead at halftime.
In the second half, CSUN’s defense once again let up allowing for Aggies to shoot 60 percent from the field and 54 percent from downtown.
“Our second half defense failed again and it’s becoming a pattern” said head coach Bobby Braswell. “We just had a lot of defensive breakdowns and I am not sure if it is fatigue, but (the breakdowns) are just mind-boggling at this point.”
Led by Paolo Mancasola’s solid performance of 18 points, 6 assists and Corey Hawkins’ 17 points, UC Davis was able to fend off a second half push by the Matadors. The Aggies shot 51 percent from the field for the game.
“We need to pick up the defensive intensity we had at the beginning of the season,” said Sophomore Forward Stephen Maxwell, who finished the night with a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“Tonight we just had a lot of blown assignments, we just did not play smart enough on defense with guys like myself and that is something a veteran needs to do in order to lead this team to victory,” Maxwell said.
The lack of a consistent defensive effort doomed CSUN from taking back control of the game after they lost the lead with six minutes to go. Aggies’ guard Josh Ritchart hit a 3-point shot which gave his team a 57-56 lead which they never looked back from.
“We have to focus on defense, play hard and play smart at the same time,” said junior guard Josh Greene.
CSUN was not much better on offense as they shot just 38 percent from the field and committed 14 turnovers. Northridge’s leading scorer on the season, sophomore guard Stephan Hicks, struggled from the field scoring just eight points on 4 of 12 shooting.
“We had some key turnovers and we forced up some quick shots that led to some easy baskets on their end,” Greene said, who put in 14 points on 40 percent shooting. “We just got to work on being more patient and taking better shots.”
The Matadors were able to pull within three points with eight seconds remaining in the second half, but Greene’s trey to tie the game was blocked.
“We Gagave a good enough effort to win this game,” said Braswell. “We just let up in the second half and when you take a deep breathe at this level you are going to get beat and that is what happened.”
Northridge’s next game is Saturday at home against Big West foe Pacific (9-8).