Coming into the season, the Matadors were one of the youngest teams in the nation, but that didn’t change their expectations on how far they could go.
“I expected for us to win the Big West Tournament and go into the NCAA and shock some people,” said junior guard Josh Greene. “With the team that we had and the way we started out, I thought we could be a sleeper team.”
Things didn’t quite pan out that way for the Matadors as they ended up 14-17 overall and 5-13 in the Big West Conference. CSUN finished ninth in the conference out of ten teams, just ahead of UC Riverside, who is disqualified from the postseason.
Northridge was led in scoring by sophomore guard Stephan Hicks who averaged 15.7 points per game. Sophomore forward Stephen Maxwell led the team in rebounding with 8.3 rebounds per game, and was the second leading scorer on the season, averaging 14.6 points per game.
Having the second highest scoring per game in the conference with 75.3 points, Northridge ranked dead last in defense as they allowed 74.5 points per game.
CSUN failed to make the Big West tournament for the second year in a row despite starting out the season on a six game winning streak against non-conference opponents.
Following the streak, Northridge lost three out of its next four games to BYU (22-11), UCLA (25-10), and ASU (22-13). CSUN bounced back with two straight wins, but none more memorable than Utah (15-18). Fighting back from a 21 point deficit at halftime, Northridge outscored the Utes 49-23 in the second half to secure a 76-71 victory.
“Basically we showed that we could beat a very good defensive team,” Maxwell said. “It was definitely a bright spot in our rocky season.”
Beginning conference play, the Matadors stumbled out of the gate to an 0-7 start. CSUN rallied back and won four of the next five conference games including key road wins over UCSB (11-20, 7-11 BWC) and CSUF (14-18, 6-12 BWC), but it was too little too late. That was the end of their success as they dropped six straight games which eliminated their chances of making the Big West tournament.
“Our weakness was mental toughness when it came to close games,” Maxwell said. “Mental toughness is something that a lot people have and a lot of people don’t. If we come together as a team we can fix those issues and be successful.”
Northridge finished off the season on a high note as it defeated Hawaii (17-15, 10-8 BWC) in the Matadome, a game where Greene poured in a season high 37 points.
“That last game was like a new beginning for me and how I want to start off my senior year next season,” Greene said. “Hopefully we can all take this offseason to get better individually and collectively.”
At the end of the season, newly appointed Athletic Director Dr. Brandon E. Martin decided not to renew the contract of head coach Bobby Braswell. The nationwide search for the new head coach will start immediately according to Martin.
“Hopefully the new coach that they bring in is the best fit for our personalities and our style of play,” Greene said.