The windy city took the wind out of the Matadors.?
Chicago State took the winning streak.?
In one of Northridge’s poorest defensive outings of the season, the Matadors ran out of second-half comebacks in an 83-75 defeat at Chicago State on Tuesday night. The non-conference loss snapped a six-game winning streak.?
“We didn’t defend the entire game,” said head coach Bobby Braswell. “We knew David Holston (CSU’s leading scorer) had the ability to get his points, but we let four of their other players score in double figures. We didn’t take much personal pride in our defense.”
Northridge (13-4, 5-0 Big West) started off sluggishly and quickly found itself in a seven-point hole, prompting Braswell to call a timeout to try to get the Matadors’ focus back, something they’ve lacked in past games’ first periods. It was to no avail, however. Northridge’s deficit grew to 23-10 by the 9:43 first-half mark.?
But, as they have all season long, the Matadors responded.?
Northridge came back with a 7-0 scoring run to cut the Cougars’ lead to six and force them to take a timeout. CSUN’s intensity rose, but Chicago State (8-14) did not fold over. Both teams traded baskets throughout the period, but Northridge managed to slice the lead down to 39-37 with two minutes remaining. They wouldn’t get closer in the period, however, and went into intermission trailing 48-40.?
“We never played together,” said junior reserve guard Rodrigue Mels. “We didn’t play as a team and that’s why we never took the lead.”
Mels tied his career-high with 18 points, scoring 16 of those points in the first period. Mels’ four three-pointers kept the Matadors close. Junior guard Deon Tresvant, usually the star off the bench, was plagued by foul trouble throughout the game. He finished with six points in 19 minutes of play.?
The Matadors were on the verge of taking the lead a couple of times in the second half, but were never able to get over the hump. Junior guards Josh Jenkins, who came off the bench, and Rob Haynes were vital to keeping the Cougars from getting away. They scored 15 points each, filling in for an off-night by the team’s leading scorers. Team captain and senior forward Jonathan Heard had finished scoreless, missing all 10 of his shots.?
“I was really struggling, I couldn’t get my shots to fall,” said Heard, seventh on CSUN’s all-time leading scor- er list. “It played a part in the game, obviously, but we’ll bounce back. We just need to get back in the gym and work on our game.”
Northridge allowed Chicago State to shoot over 50 percent from the field for the game while shooting under 40 percent themselves. The Matadors were once again short-handed as starting forward Calvin Chitwood missed his second game since suffering a high ankle sprain. Senior forward Jayme Miller fouled out of the game with nine minutes to go in the second half. His departure left the Matadors as undersized as they could be.?
A three-pointer by Jenkins and two good free throws cut the Northridge deficit to 77-75, giving them some hope. But, with two minutes left in the game, the Cougars scored again. The Matadors subsequent scoring attempt was blocked and Chicago State proceeded to seal the win with a climaxing alley-oop slam-dunk that pushed the lead to 81-75 with less than one minute to play. The Matadors never threatened again.?
“We’ll just build from this,” Jenkins said. “Every now and then it’s good to get a loss. It’s a reality check. It shows where you’re at as a team. We just need to come together and bounce back.”
For the Cougars, Holston led the scoring with 25 points, followed by guard John Cantrell with 14 points. Tawrence Walton chipped in 13 points, forward Carl Montgomery scored 11, and Kevin Jones scored 10. ?
Despite the setback, the Matadors are still undefeated in the Big West Conference and remain at the top of the standings. They will face last year’s conference and Big West tournament champions Long Beach State (4-12, 1-4 Big West) on Saturday at the Matadome. The game starts at 4 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.