Basketball season ends with split on the road

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The Matadors closed out the 2004-05 regular season the same way they started it, on the road.

This time it was against Big West foes, UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton. The Matadors split the weekend, with a 70-60 win over Riverside and a heartbreaking 72-70 loss to Fullerton.

Going into the weekend, the Matadors looked to win both games to improve their seeding for the upcoming Big West tournament. Northridge is already guaranteed a first round bye, but a higher seed could have made their path a little easier.

The Matadors had already beaten UC Riverside earlier this season, and the tricky Fullerton Titans managed to barely edge out a victory against the Matadors in their first encounter of the season. With the loss to Fullerton, the Matadors seed for the tournament fell from third to fourth.

First, the Matadors stopped by UC Riverside to take on the Highlanders. The Highlanders sit next to the bottom in the Big West Conference standings, and they didn’t qualify for the tournament. Yet they proved to be a bit of trouble for the Matadors in the first half.

With the Matadors ending the first half trailing 32-31, their lax play in the first 20 minutes of the game allowed the Highlanders to stay on top. The Matadors shot 52.2 percent from the field in the first half, compared to Riverside’s 55 percent shooting. Northridge was also out-rebounded, 29-26, but stuck to their guns as they out-hustled the Highlanders to take a 13 to 5 advantage in steals.

Joseph Frazier showed how valuable he is to the Matadors, playing 35 minutes and leading Northridge with 17 points, while also handing out three assists and taking six steals. Ian Boylan also contributed to the Matadors with 15 points, six boards and four steals.

Northridge came into the second half swinging, going on a 20-4 run, to take a 51-36 lead with 11:57 remaining.

The Matadors didn’t allow the Highlanders to score until almost six minutes into the second half. Riverside wouldn’t get closer than eight points the rest of the way, and the Matadors closed out the game without any further scares.

To close out the season, Northridge had a difficult task at hand. Earlier in the season, the Titans defeated the Matadors 71-70 in overtime at the Matadome.

On the Matador’s side, Davin White led all players with 19 points and tied a game high with five assists. Boylan had 13 points on 4 of 9 shooting and was flawless from the free-throw line. Joseph Frazier had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds. On the Titans’ side, Ralphy Holmes had a rare triple double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

Both teams shot nearly identical from the field, as the Matadors shot 46.4 percent compared to 47.5 percent shooting for the Titans. The Matadors were hurt most from being out-rebounded, 37-32, and having the ball stolen eight times compared to only five steals for CSUN. For the first time all season, the Matadors did not come up with any steals in a half,as they had none in the first half.

The Matadors started down in the game, as the Titans began with a 13-2 lead. They held their most comfortable lead of the game, 32-19, with 5:50 left in the half, yet the Matadors would bounce back, trailing by just six at the half.

The Matadors started the second half well, with a 12-4 run, tying the game at 46 with 16:23 remaining in the game. Fullerton then took over, grabbing an 11-point lead with 7:20 left in the game.

The Matadors went on a 14-3 run of their own that concluded with a three-pointer from White with 26 seconds left, tying the game once again at 70. On the final possession of the game, the Titans’ Jamaal Brown tipped in a missed Holmes jumper to beat the Matadors 72-70 as time expired, once again edging Northridge by a close margin.

With the result of that game, the Matadors finish the regular season 17-12 overall and 12-6 in the Big West, tied with the Titans who took the higher seed with the better overall win percentage. The Matadors are seeded fourth in the tournament, which starts Thursday for CSUN, whose opponent has yet to be determined.