Gomez drops 31 as CSUN notches first win against Fresno State


Six-foot-six-inch center Lance Coleman II, during the 81-70 home exhibition win against CSU Dominguez Hills on Oct. 28. Photo credit: Tim Strong

Alexander Nino

The CSUN men’s basketball team squeezed out their first win of the year, escaping the Fresno State Bulldogs 73-72 in a dramatic affair on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Both squads went into the game seeking a reversal of fortune, as the Matadors (1-7) were riding a seven-game losing streak to begin the year while Fresno State (2-4) sought their first road victory of the young season.

As the final buzzer sounded, the CSUN bench exuded relief rather than elation, while head coach Mark Gottfried viewed the win as a much needed confidence booster.

“We started the year slow, but this was important for our players to know that they can win,” Gottfried said. “If they execute things properly, which they did tonight, then we can keep improving.”

In addition to snapping their skid, the Matadors notched their first victory against the Bulldogs since 1999 at Fresno. To find the last Matador home win against Fresno State, one would have to go all the way back to the 1968-69 season when CSUN came away with a 100-97 victory in overtime.

History seemed destined to repeat itself throughout the night as the Bulldogs rode the 3-point line in the first half to build leads as large as 11 points, which they held throughout the majority of the game.

CSUN refused to go away, putting together several runs which typically coincided with Fresno cold streaks from the 3-point line. A pivotal 16-4 run in the middle of the first half from the Matadors led by redshirt junior Lance Coleman II and sophomore Elijah Harkless kept the home crowd engaged, and a deep, buzzer-beating three from sophomore Darius Brown II sent the Matadors into the half with momentum.

The Bulldogs focused on their big men throughout the second half. Freshman Orlando Robinson and senior Nate Grimes controlled the paint for Fresno as they combined to put up 36 points and 18 rebounds, exposing CSUN’s lack of size.

The Matadors made up for it on the perimeter, holding a trigger happy Fresno to 31% from beyond the arc while junior guard Terrell Gomez put on a shooting clinic en route to a game-high 31 points.

Gomez overcame poor shooting in the first half and made more 3-pointers than the entire Fresno squad in the closing frame. He wound up matching career highs in 3-pointers attempted (14) and made (seven) while carrying the Matadors and electrifying the crowd down the stretch.

It was a much needed return to form for Gomez, who lamented a recent cold spell that saw him miss 14 consecutive 3-pointers over a two-game stretch.

“I feel like these last few games I haven’t been shooting my best,” Gomez said. “I kind of just let everything out the window, got back to my mechanics and let it fly today.”

The game stood tied at 71 with a minute left when trips to the free-throw line for both teams helped illustrate the defining factor of the game. It was the true freshman Orlando Robinson that trudged to the line for Fresno State where he made one of two, capping off a 58% showing from the charity stripe for the Bulldogs. With 4.6 seconds left, Gomez sauntered over and calmly sank the game-deciding shots from the free-throw line, where CSUN shot 88%.

Brown and Coleman complimented Gomez’s heroics with 14 points each, while Harkless contributed 12 points and a team high nine rebounds. The quartet of Gomez, Brown, Coleman and Harkless combined for 71 of the Matadors’ 73 points on the night.

“Overall it was a great win for us,” Gomez said. “I’m proud of the team for pulling out a gutsy first win and we appreciate the coaches for staying on us.”

Rather than use the early season rough patch as motivation, CSUN has taken the day-to-day approach in order to keep morale up.

“We’ve been trying to start off every game with a clean slate,” Gomez said. “We don’t want to be negative and the coaches have done a great job keeping things positive.”

Positivity, along with some hot shooting, helped deliver the Matadors’ first win of the year. But Gottfried believes that his squad must keep improving at the beginning of games in order to turn their season around.

“We had slow starts in both halves today,” Gottfried said. “I do think we got better in these last couple games, but the most important thing is to keep getting better both at home and away.”

CSUN’s quest for improvement will continue in Oregon where they will take on the University of Portland on Wednesday and Portland State on Friday before returning to the Matadome on Dec. 11 to face North Dakota State.