Matadors seek to stay undefeated in Big West

Alonso Tacanga

The Matadors seek to continue their winning ways and conference dominance as they get set to host Big West Conference foes UC Irvine and CSU Fullerton tonight and Saturday respectively. Both games are set for 7:05 p.m. tip-offs at the Matadome.

Northridge (14-4, 6-0 Big West) is 7-0 at home and enters these games as the leader of the Big West, 1 ? games ahead of both Pacific (14-6, 5-2) and the Titans (12-6, 5-2). Northridge was last seen in action during a 100-61 win over Long Beach State on Saturday at the Matadome. The Matadors had five players score in double-figures and held the 49ers to 37 percent shooting from the field.

?”It all starts with defense for us. The points and totals for the game are just gravy,” said head coach Bobby Braswell after the game. “If we’re defending, we’re going to get turnovers, we’re going to get easy baskets and we’re going to get a lot of opportunities.”

The Matadors face a UC Irvine squad coming off a home win against UC Riverside. The Anteaters (8-11, 3-3) are led in scoring by 6-foot-6 forward Patrick Sanders, who averages 15.5 points per game. They’re an outstanding home team, but are only 1-7 in away games. Despite this, Northridge guard Josh Jenkins is aware they can’t overlook any rivals.

“We just prepare for them the same way we approach anybody else,” said Jenkins, who averages a conference-leading 6.6 assists per game. “We take them (Irvine) in the same consideration as a Gonzaga or anybody else. That’s going to help keep this undefeated record.”

The undefeated home streak will have to overcome a big test on Saturday, when Northridge squares off against Fullerton. The Titans have won their last seven matches against the Matadors, although both of last season’s contests were tight affairs. Senior swingman Jonathan Heard – the Matadors’ third-leading scorer at 11.8 points per game acknowledged the importance of making sure all opponents who visit the Matadome leave Northridge with a sour taste in their mouths.

?”It’s always good to get the home win and to have the home crowd behind you,” said the 6-foot-6 Heard. “We said it since the first of day of practice, ‘we’re not going to lose here. We’re going to protect our home.’ We’ve made it a purpose to let everybody know that we’re not going to lose on our home court.”

Fullerton has won two straight games and is visiting Long Beach State tonight. Their star guard Josh Akognon, who sat out all of last season, leads the Big West in scoring at 21.2 points per game. The Titans are also the highest-scoring team in the conference (82.2 ppg) and rank No. 2 in three-point field goal percentage (.416).

?Fullerton features two more double-figure scorers. Guard Frank Robinson has a 15.4 scoring average and forward Scott Cuttley chips in 13.4 points per game. No team in the Big West makes more three-pointers per game than the Titans. Braswell talked about the defensive test they represent.

?”They obviously pose a huge defensive challenge because they have quite a few guys that can score the ball,” said the 12th-year head coach. They’re very talented offensively, they can beat you in lots of different ways. We’re going to have to be very good at all five positions (defensively). ”

?UC Irvine leads the all-time series against the Matadors 20-18. The teams split two games last season, with each team winning on their home floor. Fullerton, on the other hand, has had success against Northridge as of late and currently holds a 30-23 series lead.?

Star reserve Deon Tresvant leads the Matadors in scoring. He’s averaging 13.6 points in just under 25 minutes of playing time per game.