Townsend fuels Matadors past UC Davis, 77-57

Alonso Tacanga

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After two consecutive gut-wrenching conference losses, center Tremaine Townsend was poised to help the Matadors bounce back.Way to rebound and score.

Townsend’s career-highs of 21 points and 22 rebounds helped the Matadors repel a first-half offensive drought, make a tight game a blowout, and keep pace in the Big West Conference with a 77-57 road win over UC Davis on Saturday at the Pavilion.

Townsend, who made his first start of the season earned Big West Player of the Week honors for his performance. It is the second time this season that Townsend has received the award.

“Tremaine made some great moves in the post, hit some outside shots, including a three-pointer,” said head coach Bobby Braswell. “He told me earlier (Saturday) that he had been a little complacent, but he said, ‘Coach, I’m ready to go.’ I’m proud of his effort.”

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and kept Northridge (16-6, 8-2 Big West) tied for first place with Pacific (17-6, 8-2), who also won on Saturday, against Long Beach State.

Townsend scored 18 of his points after a first period in which Northridge couldn’t find the basket and shot less than 40 percent from the field. The Matadors, however, relied on their defense and held Davis to 27 percent shooting and led the offensive struggle 26-25 after the game’s first 20 minutes.

“Offensively, we had some trouble scoring, but I kept saying to the team to keep defending,” said Braswell. “We were getting (defensive) stops and turnovers, but we were not converting.”

The Matadors, coming off a heartbreaking 78-73 overtime loss at Pacific, were cold and even started the game trailing 6-0 to an Aggie squad that came into the evening having lost five straight games. Northridge responded, but Davis countered and kept the game close in the first period.

Northridge couldn’t shake off its rival for much of the second half either. Aggies’ forward Dominic Calegari’s three-pointer drew Davis within 48-46 at the 11:17 mark and the thought of an upset wasn’t implausible.

“You don’t underestimate any teams,” said Townsend. “We just came in a little slow. We just had to pick it up. It just took a little bit longer to get it going.”

Deon Tresvant countered with a trey to give the Matadors some breathing room, and more. His basket started a five-minute 20-5 run that turned the contested game into a rout. Tresvant finished the scoring outburst himself with a layup at the 5:57 mark, putting Northridge up 68-51 and prompting a Davis timeout. The Aggies never threatened thereafter.

The Matadors shot a blistering 65 percent from the field in the second half while holding Davis to 37 percent. For the game, the Aggies only made 32 percent of their shots. Braswell, a defense-prioritizing coach, was pleased with the energy.

“It was a great team effort,” said Braswell. “I’m blessed and thankful that this team came out tonight and realized what they had to do. Defensively, the effort was good from the opening tip-off to the end.”

Townsend credited team play for his performance, as well.

“The ball was just landing in my hands and I was just at the right place at the right time,” said Townsend. “My point guard and teammates were finding me in the post and off of pick-and-rolls and giving me good looks while I was in rhythm. So all the credit goes to my teammates for finding me at the right spots.”

The Matadors also held the Aggies’ leading scorer, guard Vince Oliver, to just two points. Calegari, however, had 18 for Davis. Guard David Carter scored 17 points.

Northridge out-rebounded Davis 36-30, but only Townsend had more than three rebounds for his team. Leading-scorer Tresvant chipped in 12 points and forward Calvin Chitwood had 13 for the Matadors. Guard Josh Jenkins had a game-leading nine assists.

The Matadors will take a week off before their next game, a Saturday night affair with UC Riverside at the Matadome. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.