On Senior night, a show-off junior almost completely stole the show.
Standout reserve Deon Tresvant scored all 21 of his points in the second half to blow open a close game and help the Matadors clinch a share of the Big West Conference regular-season title and a No. 2 tournament seed with a cruising 97-67 win over Cal Poly Saturday at the Matadome. Northridge received two byes and will play the highest remaining seed on Friday at 8 p.m. for a chance to advance to the Big West tournament championship game.
“I asked Deon (Tresvant) if he was okay and he said ‘coach I was trying to get my teammates involved before I get started,” said Braswell among laughs, referring to an exchange he had with Tresvant after the junior had a scoreless first half. “So I said ‘okay enough of that, let’s go ahead and get started’ and he really turned it on.”
Tresvant ripped off 16 points during a deciding 25-9 second-half run that put Northridge up 76-56 with 9:17 left in the game. The guard, who scored 25 points in a disappointing home loss against Santa Barbara last Thursday, got plenty of help from his teammates to turn around a game in which Northridge trailed by as many as eight points in the first half.
Senior forward Calvin Chitwood, who scored 17 points, made three consecutive three-pointers in the first half. His last gave the Matadors the lead for good, 34-33, and seemingly spread the hot-hand bug around as every three-point attempt began to drop for the home team. The next time down the court, guard Josh Jenkins hit his fourth trey of the evening. Then, guard Rob Haynes made one. After intermission, Chitwood again began the three-point parade, hitting on his first second-half try. Then Tresvant took over and dropped five long-ball jumpers. Northridge was 16-of-26 from beyond the three-point line for the game. Chitwood made five of six attempts.
“It was just a good night,” said Chitwood, whose performance helped the Matadors obtain its first-ever Big West championship. “My teammates encourage me everyday and specially (tonight) as the game kept going, they kept encouraging me, telling me they needed me to step up. (Fortunately) I was able to step up and hit some big shots.”
Jonathan Heard scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half. The Northridge senior made his final Matadome-career shot attempt – a three-pointer, mind you – and left the court to a standing ovation. Heard, along with three other seniors – Chitwood, Rai Colston and Jayme Miller – were each honored after the game. The swingman and the rest of the Matadors are now in search of a new distinction, however, the NCAA Division I tournament’s automatic bid that’s given to the champion of every conference tournament.
Miller, who was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field and scored nine points, was sure the Matadors would be part of the “big dance.”
“We’re going to make this run next week and win the Big West tournament,” the usually-quiet Miller said. “Then, (we’ll) do big things in the NCAA tournament. It’s a guarantee. ”
Jenkins helped keep a struggling Matador offense afloat in the first half by scoring 14 of his 16 points in the game’s first 20 minutes. Northridge picked its offense up, but only led 43-38 at halftime despite shooting almost 57 percent from the field. The Mustangs couldn’t keep up in the second half and only shot 25 percent. Forward Shelton Titus led them in scoring with 12 points.
The Matadors will share the Big West regular season title with UC Santa Barbara and CSU Fullerton after all three of them ended up with the same conference record. Northridge gets the second seed due to the Gauchos’ sweep of Fullerton, who gets the third seed. Santa Barbara is seeded at the top and, like the Matadors, will receive two byes into the semifinal round.
The rest of the Big West teams are seeded as follows: No. 4 Pacific, No. 5 UC Irvine, No. 6 Cal Poly, No. 7 UC Riverside and No. 8 Long Beach State.
Pacific gets a first round bye along with the third-seeded Titans. The first round of the single-elimination tournament will be played this Wednesday and the quarterfinals the next day. The semifinals, when Northridge debuts, are on Friday and the championship game will follow it on Saturday. All games will be played at the Anaheim Convention Center.
“We only have (to win) two games,” said Heard, a champion for the first time in his four-year Matador tenure. “We’re not losing. We’re going to give it our all.”
Two games to get into the NCAA tournament. It’s win-or-go-home time in the Big West.