The CSUN men’s basketball team had little difficulty in their preseason opener Saturday, winning the game against Cal State Los Angeles, 94-75 at home.
The Matadors led the entire game and scored 50 points in the paint, driving to the basket at will.
The outcome was a good start for a team that has added four transfer student athletes this upcoming season. Head coach Reggie Theus said the players did a good job considering their limited time of playing together thus far.
“Part of what we have to grow to is a real team,” Theus said. “Right now we’re athletic, we have depth, we’re long, we haven’t become a team yet. When I say that I don’t mean that as a negative. I think from an intensity standpoint, from a camaraderie standpoint, our guys are doing great. As we get better on the floor, we will become a team as time goes on.”
The Matadors were led by their leading scorer last year, junior guard Kendall Smith, who scored 23 points in the contest. The Matadors’ only senior on the team, guard Aaron Parks, chipped in with a double-double scoring 19 points and adding 12 rebounds. Parks’ driving enabled him to shoot a team high 16 free-throws in the game, making 13 of them.
“I feel like we have a lot more growing to do but overall I think we did pretty good,” Parks said. “They didn’t really have a lot of bigs, so I can always go past my first defender and it was easy for me to get to the rack and finish.”
Some newcomers to the team also made their presence felt in the exhibition. Redshirt junior center Dylan Johns had 11 points and nine rebounds in his first game in nearly two years. Fellow redshirt junior guard Darin Johnson added 20 points.
The Matadors have different expectations this year as they ranked third in the Big West Conference Preseason Poll, a large jump for a team that finished at a tie for sixth last season in the conference.
Smith was named to the Preseason All-Big West Conference team and figures to be a key part to his team’s success.
“My job on this team is to come in everyday and compete at a high level,” Smith said. “I’ve been blessed with a scoring mentality, but also a facilitating mentality so I think in terms of where we are at in the game, coach will let me know if I need to be more aggressive or if I need to get guys involved.”
The Matadors officially open the season against Pomona-Pitzer on Nov. 11. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. at the Matadome.