Matadors seek to rebound from first conference loss

Alonso Tacanga

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The Matadors seek to rebound from their first home loss of the season as they hit the road for back-to-back games at Big West Conference rivals Pacific and UC Davis tonight and Saturday respectively. Both games are set for 7 p.m. tip-offs.

The Matadors (15-5, 7-2 Big West) couldn’t hold on to an eight-point second-half lead and fell to CSU Fullerton 80-72 last Saturday night at the Matadome. The loss snapped their perfect home and conference records, but didn’t drop them from the Big West’s top spot.

“It hurts, it’s a loss. We fought, but sometimes it doesn’t go your way,” said senior swingman Jonathan Heard after the game. “But the fact of the matter is we’re still in first place. We still got that target on our backs and we know what we got to do.”

Head coach Bobby Braswell was disappointed with his team’s efforts on the boards against the Titans – they were outrebounded 51-42. Pacific, the best rebounding team in the conference, represents a daunting task.

“We gotta box people out, put a body on people,” said Braswell. “We have to be a lot tougher than we were in our last game. (Rebounding) is something we take a tremendous amount of pride in.”

The Tigers (15-6, 6-2) are the top field goal percentage shooting team in the Big West and are led in scoring by junior guard Steffan Johnson, who averages 15.7 points per game. Pacific, who makes almost 50 percent of their shot attempts, has had an edge over Northridge in recent seasons. The Matadors, however, have won two of their last three meetings.

Deon Tresvant, Northridge’s leading scorer, said team defense is a priority if the team is to get its first-ever road victory against the Tigers.

“We gotta apply pressure like we do to every team and get back to our basic defense,” said Tresvant, a junior. “Apply hard pressure and not give them good looks, just give them one shot.”

Pacific is 7-2 at the Spanos Center, their home court, and lost its last contest there against Cal Poly 72-67 on Jan. 28. They rebounded, beat UC Davis on the road last Saturday and are within one game of the Matadors for a tie for first place. Despite the outcome having the effect of changing things drastically in the conference, Braswell is not giving Pacific extra importance.

“To be honest, it’s not that big a deal, it’s just our next game,” said the head coach. “It’s a big game because it’s our next game and our guys know that. We don’t place any more importance on this game than we would if we were up three or four games (on the standings).”

After Northridge deals with the Tigers, they will head to Davis to take on the Aggies (8-13, 2-6). UC Davis, who hosts Long Beach State tonight, has lost four straight games and is near the bottom of the conference in rebounding numbers. They also allow their opponents to shoot a conference-worst 48 percent from the field.

The Aggies are led in scoring by 6-foot-3 guard Vince Oliver. He averages 13.3 points per game and has helped UC Davis to a 7-3 home record. On the road, however, it has been a different story. The Aggies were thrashed 82-47 when they visited the Matadome in early January. Braswell said he doesn’t intend to let the lopsided win be motive to overlook the rival.

“Davis is a very good team at home. We had a good game against them before and we got to make sure we don’t get complacent and not ready to play,” Braswell said. “We need to make sure we’re focused, regardless of what happens on Thursday (at Pacific) to play a good game on Saturday.”