During the halftime break of the CSUN men’s basketball team’s season-opening game against Chicago State, head coach Bobby Braswell referenced boxing while addressing his team.
“They punched us in the first half,” Braswell said of Chicago State. “We came in at halftime and said ‘fellas, we’re in for a fight’ and we were either going to throw in the towel or we’re going to fight back.”
The Matadors chose the latter and they made sure they chose wisely, as they answered a shaky first half with a solid second half to defeat the Chicago State Cougars 96-85 at the Matadome Saturday afternoon.
“They punched us from the get-go and we knew we had to find out what type of team we were,” senior forward Jonathan Heard said.
Heard scored a career-high 29 points and senior forward Calvin Chitwood had a double-double, scoring 22 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Junior guard Deon Tresvant scored 14 points off the bench and junior guard Paul Wayne had 13 points.
The Matadors slowly chipped away the Cougars’ 52-44 halftime lead to start the second half, getting it down to 58-52 at the 15:04 mark. Tresvant nailed a three to slice the lead in half and then later made another three to cut the deficit to 60-59. Following a pair of free-throws by junior guard John Cantrell, Chitwood tipped in a miss by junior forward Tremaine Townsend and Heard converted a three-point play, to put CSUN up 64-62 at 11:30. Chitwood and Heard’s points ignited a 13-2 run that gave the Matadors a 72-62 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.
Chicago State stayed in the game for the next three minutes, slicing the lead down to 74-70, which was answered with scores from junior guard Josh Jenkins and Chitwood. CSUN got its lead back to double-digits at 82-72 on a Heard score with 5:21 left and were in control from there on, leading by as many as 11 down the stretch.
“We were hungry,” Chitwood said. “We responded in a great way in the second half.”
Chicago State dominated the first half of play and Cougar junior guard David Holston was driving the bus, as he scored 23 first half points, 18 of them coming of 6-7 shooting from the three-point line. Chicago State led by as many as eight and took a 52-44 halftime lead into the locker room.
Stopping Holston was CSUN’s main focus in the second half and they attacked one area that proved to be his undoing: foul trouble. Holston had three fouls in the first half, and the Matadors stepped up its defensive pressure, holding Holston to only six second half points before fouling out.
“We face-guarded him,” Braswell said. “We had some other guys stepping up in front of him and put a little more pressure on him and I thought we wore him down a little bit. I thought he got tired in the second half.”
CSUN also forced 21 Cougar turnovers and scored 24 points off those turnovers. The Matadors also got 26 fast break points and 27 points from its bench.
“It wasn’t going to start on the offensive end, it was going to start on the defensive end,” Heard said. “We all played together and we all played a part.”
The Matadors next head to Malibu to face the Pepperdine Waves on Saturday night at 7 p.m.