In what players called a “wakeup-call game,” the Matadors almost didn’t get up in time from a nightmare.
Deon Tresvant’s three-pointers down the stretch, however, provided the alarm clock.
Northridge trailed throughout the game, only to come back -yet again- in the final minutes, to stay perfect in the Big West Conference with a 66-62 win at pesky Riverside on Wednesday night.
Tresvant scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the second half with an array of three-pointers that pushed the first-place Matadors (13-3, 5-0 Big West) ahead for good. CSUN had trailed by as many as 10 points to a Riverside squad that had yet to win a conference match.
“We knew they were going to play us tough, knowing that we’re number one in the conference,” said Tresvant, who hit six of 11 three-point attempts. “I knew it wasn’t going to be just a walkover. They played us tough and we had to dig down to get the win.”
The Highlanders (3-12, 0-4) led by as many as 10 points and looked to be in good shape to pull off the upset, holding a 50-45 lead with 6:48 left in the game. However, back-to-back Tresvant three-pointers and a free throw by senior forward Jonathan Heard tied the game at 54.
Following a timeout, the star reserve hit another long three, giving Northridge its first lead, 57-54, since the game’s opening minute.
“He stepped up big and hit some big shots for us just like he’s done all year,” said Heard about his teammate’s tendency to heat up at the end of games. “It wasn’t a surprise. We know how confident he plays and that’s what he does.”
Riverside tied it up again on a three-point play, but senior forward Jayme Miller hit two free throws and Tresvant made another three-point shot to send the Highlanders scurrying for another timeout with 2:29 left. The Matador lead was not seriously threatened again.
Junior gurad Rob Haynes made three first-half treys and junior point guard Josh Jenkins chipped in 14 points and six assists for Northridge. Jenkins was only 2-for-11 from the field but hit all eight of his free throws to assist Haynes in keeping the Matadors afloat in a first half where they only made 31 percent of their shots. The Highlanders shot over 60 percent from the field in the first half, yet went into intermission with a mere 34-34 tie.
“You can’t overlook the fact that we won,” said Jenkins. “But at the same time, we didn’t have a good game as far as playing Northridge-kind of basketball. Our defense wasn’t on point as it usually is.”
The Matadors played without injured starting forward Calvin Chitwood, who sustained a high ankle sprain during a 78-61 win against Pacific on Jan. 12. Heard slipped into his spot and responded by grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds. The 6-foot-6 swingman was fouled hard on a breakaway dunk-attempt in the second half and although he remained down for a few moments, he was okay to continue.
Heard was more concerned with the games’ first periods, where the Matadors have been struggling lately. They have been down at the half in three of the past five games coming into Riverside, but have come back to win them all. Heard said the team needs to put two consistent halves together if it hopes to continue its winning ways.
“It’s becoming a trademark for us to be a second-half team, but we’ve got to stop doing that and start being consistent,” said the team captain. “In the first half, we always come out a little sluggish, but we’re going to start picking that up and become a two-half team.”
Northridge visits Chicago State today for a non-conference game. In case they don’t put two halves together this occasion, it’s good to have a Tresvant alarm that can go off at just the right time.