The Matadors dig themselves a deep hole as conference play begins.
After an 8-3 start, the Matadors cooled off during the semester break as they opened up conference play 0-6, sitting at the bottom of the Big West Conference.
Northridge opened their winter break schedule with a 93-63 win over San Diego Christian (4-8). With a 52-31 lead at halftime, the Matadors bench came up big with 51 points led by freshman center Brandon Perry.
Hitting the road, the Matadors traveled to Utah (8-8) and fought back from a 48-27 halftime deficit en route to a 76-71 win. The win was especially gratifying for head coach Bobby Braswell who was proud of his team after such a win.
“These guys came out at halftime and completely turned it around. It was night and day,” Braswell said. “It was characteristic of the kind of game that you want them to play here at Northridge.”
Big West Conference play opened for CSUN with a 74-71 road loss to Hawai’i (9-7, 3-2 Big West). Redshirt sophomore guard Stephan Hicks led the way with 25 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Matadors shot 9-18 from the free throw line, well below their 74 percent average on the season.
Looking to get back on track, the Matadors continued conference play with a 65-64 home loss against UC Riverside (4-12, 1-3). Sophomore forward Stephen Maxwell led the way for CSUN with 16 points and six rebounds on 7-11 shooting.
Maxwell has emerged as one of the leaders on this young Matador team, while continuing his strong play.
“It just comes down to leadership and coming together,” said Maxwell. “We just need to stay focused on what the goal is, not personal or individual success.”
The losing streak continued as they suffered a 105-86 home loss to CSU Fullerton (10-6, 3-1). CSUN had no answer for Fullerton’s offensive onslaught which was led by senior guard D.J. Seeley, scoring a game-high 37 points.
Heading back on the road, the Matadors visited Long Beach State (8-8, 4-1) missing two of their starting guards. Junior guard Josh Greene sat out, serving a one-game suspension, and sophomore guard Allan Guei was not medically cleared after suffering a concussion in practice.
Playing undermanned on the road against a tough opponent, CSUN lost 78-69, but it was enough to win the praise of Braswell.
“We never celebrate a loss, but we were very pleased as coaches,” Braswell said.
“Sometimes you can have a great effort and you just don’t have enough to win and you can live with that as a coach as long as you play the game the right way.”
The Matadors visited UC Irvine (9-9, 3-2) still looking for their first conference win, but came up short in a 79-69 loss. Irvine shot 64 percent from the field, highlighting a glaring weakness for CSUN.
“We have relied on our offense a little bit too much to carry us and defensively we are not sitting down and guarding anymore,” said Braswell.
Defense was again the weak point for the Matadors Thursday night, falling to UC Davis (6-10, 2-3) 74-71. After letting UC Irvine shoot 75 percent in the second half of the previous game, UC Davis shot 60 percent in the second half, taking the lead for good with seven minutes left in the game.
Maxwell continued to lead the offense, recording his sixth double-double of the season, and third in his last four games.