Matadors drop third straight in loss to UC Riverside

CSUN forward Dearon Tucker, 35, tries to block a UC Riverside player while on defense on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, at the Premier America Credit Union Arena in Northridge, Calif.

José C. Delgado, Reporter

Unable to quench the Highlanders’ 46.2% shooting from 3-point range, the CSUN men’s basketball team lost Monday to UC Riverside by a final score of 96-76.

The Matadors (6-22, 3-14 Big West Conference) faltered in front of their home crowd to a Highlanders team (19-10, 12-5 Big West Conference) that was looking to catch UC Irvine for first place in the conference.

Foul and turnover trouble found the Matadors trailing 12-3 early in the first half. After a couple of impressive defensive stops, the Matadors came back to tie the game at 12, holding the Highlanders scoreless for almost five minutes.

The Matadors were unable to build off of this, as the Highlanders regained the lead and never looked back.
UC Riverside was led by freshman forward Lachlan Olbrich, who racked up 22 points on 9-13 shooting in 28 minutes of action. The Matadors had their hands full dealing with the size of Olbrich, who stands 6 feet, 10 inches tall.

The Matadors relied on the scoring of sophomore guard Atin Wright, who led the game in points with 24 in 32 minutes of playing time. The team remains without guard Dionte Bostick, who has been out since suffering an injury on Jan. 26.

“He’s continued to stay aggressive, he’s continued to stay as positive as possible, so he’s going to have an impact on any game and every game we play,” CSUN head coach Trent Johnson said about Wright’s impact on the team. “That’s just because he’s our best offensive player.”

With just over three minutes left in the first half, the Matadors got within six points of the Highlanders. Riverside ended the half by outscoring Northridge 11-2 to put the Matadors down 49-34.
The second half played out in much the same way for the visiting Highlanders, with their lead eventually ballooning to as many as 27 points.

Six minutes into the second half, Wright was fouled on a tough shot and looked shaken up as he went to attempt his free throws. He hit one of two from the free-throw line and continued to play.

“He is having a problem with his hip,” Johnson said. “I mean a lot of people are banged up at this time of the year, and because of the defensive pressure and defensive physicality people are putting on him, it’s starting to wear on him a little bit. But he continues to practice and he continues to compete.”

Wright subbed out with around nine minutes left in the period, but returned less than three minutes later.
Turnovers were detrimental to the Matadors performance Monday night. They lost the turnover battle, committing 17 to the Highlanders’ 11.

“Turnovers are a big part of basketball, but we need to take a look at that and attribute that to Riverside, which is a very, very good basketball team,” Johnson said. “They’re very physical and put a lot of pressure.”

As time winded down, a determined Highlanders team ran the Matadors out of their own building. UC Riverside jumped up from third to second place in the Big West standings and are now a game and a half back of first.

Next up for the Matadors, they’ll host the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners (10-17, 6-10 Big West Conference) on Thursday, Feb. 23.