Braden Villanueva/CSUN Athletics
The Matadors won a close first game of their two-game series against the UC Davis Aggies 80-77 to get to .500 on the season.
The Aggies won 13 of their last 14 games against CSUN coming into today’s matchup. CSUN got itself in early foul trouble as they committed five fouls in the first four minutes of the game and fell to an early deficit.
“There’s a lot of things that we have to get to work on, we have to stop fouling. We had too many fouls,” said junior guard Darius Brown II. “Getting to a winning record motivates us to keep working.”
Although CSUN got off to a slow start, back-to-back 3-pointers from Brown and freshman guard Atin Wright brought the Aggies’ lead down to 12-10. Another 3-pointer from Wright gave the Matadors their first lead as was part of a 11-2 run.
The first half saw eight ties and 14 lead changes. The Matadors had an advantage in the first half by shooting 40% from 3-point range while the Aggies shot just 25%. This theme would continue through the rest of the game as the Matadors shot 44% from behind the arc to the Aggies mere 18%.
The Matadors went on a 16-6 run in the second half, increasing their lead to as much as 13 and never conceding the lead for the rest of the game.
The Aggies made a rally towards the end of the game as they went on a 16-9 run and decreased the lead to 74-68 with 2:25 left in the half.
The Matadors fought to maintain a 3-point lead with little more than a minute remaining when head coach Mark Gottfried called a timeout.
“We were trying to execute our offense,” Gottfried said. “The play broke down a bit and Darius stepped up and made a heck of a shot for us.” Brown inbounded the ball and looked to find a teammate. He passed the ball, got open and hit a massive 3-pointer to get the whole bench off their feet and double the lead to 78-72 with 34 seconds left.
“I knew we didn’t have enough time to create our offense so I created my own shot and took it.” Brown said.
UC Davis came back to make a crucial 3-pointer of their own to bring the lead back down to three. Brown then made a free throw to give CSUN a two-possession lead, but two free throws from UC Davis brought the lead back down to two points at 79-77.
Brown proceeded to hit one more free throw and the clock ran out before the Aggies could take another shot.
Brown finished the night with 15 points, six assists, two rebounds, three steals and a perfect 100% from 3-point range on three shots.
CSUN plays the second game of their series against UC Davis at 2 p.m Saturday.
“Right now I’m not as concerned with our record,” Gottfried said. “We’ve got a lot of room for improvement, my teams finish the season well, we’ll build on it.”