The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN upsets UCLA in convincing fashion

Aliyah Hinckley
File photo. Forward Lamine Niang, 34, celebrates after the win against UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 4, 2023, at the Premier America Credit Union Arena in Northridge, Calif.

“It’s just Cal State Northridge,” a UCLA fan beside the press row heckled as the first half of the CSUN-UCLA basketball game came to a close.

Yes, it is the Cal State Northridge Matadors who upset the UCLA Bruins 76-72 at the Pauley Pavilion on Tuesday night. For a team that hasn’t had a Power 6 victory since 2012, this is a signature win for CSUN head coach Andy Newman in his first year at the helm.

The Matadors were scrappy all night long. Despite a significant height disadvantage and negative foul differential, CSUN managed to hold onto their lead until the final whistle.

Newman said the key for the Matadors was not getting caught up in the moment.

“We played our brand of basketball and guys weren’t scared,” Newman said.

The Matadors definitely played their brand of basketball. Defense and rebounds were the keys to success. CSUN out-rebounded the Bruins and had more second chance points as a result.

Newman’s squad held the Bruins to just 26 points at the half. They played suffocating defense on the UCLA big men, which includes potential NBA draft picks Adem Bona and Aday Mara. Bona and Mara finished with just eight and two points, respectively.

Sacramento State transfer Gianni Hunt made his debut for the Matadors after a court decision on Dec. 13 ruled that all two-time transfers shall be made eligible immediately.

Hunt had a nice game for the Matadors, finishing with 12 points in 32 minutes. It will be interesting to see what Hunt’s role on the team will look like in the coming games.

“Coming into today, I just wanted to play with my brothers. I love these guys,” Hunt said excitedly. “We came in thinking we were the better team, and we proved it.”

Newman also spoke very highly of his experienced guard.

“We knew with him being eligible, it would slingshot us into another stratosphere,” he said.

Even UCLA head coach Mick Cronin had something to say.

“We found out Hunt got eligible and he hurt us bad,” Cronin said.

The Matadors had three players foul out and another two pick up four fouls. All in all, CSUN finished with an astounding 31 fouls. Newman had a good laugh when talking about the foul count.

“I thought some of my assistants were going to foul out too, but that is just our brand of basketball…tough and physical,” Newman added.

Three-point shooting has not been CSUN’s strong suit, as they came into Tuesday’s game shooting just over 30% from beyond the arc. They shot just 29% in this game, but it was a busy night in the paint for the Matadors.

34 of their 76 points came from inside the paint. The CSUN offense really exploited the Bruins down low, and that led to five Matadors finishing in double-digit points.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Matadors is going to be the health of rising star Keonte Jones. Jones finished with 12 points, five rebounds, and three steals, but exited the game with less than a minute to go with a left knee injury.

Jones could not immediately put pressure on his leg and was helped off the court by the training staff. If Jones were to miss extended time, that would be a huge blow to the Matadors.

The buzz around this team is real. Dionte Bostick and De’Sean Allen-Eikens are playing like the experienced vets Newman needed coming into the season. Transfers Jasman Sangha and Jones are also playing at a high level. It seems like the Matadors have finally adopted an identity early in the season.

With this win, however, there may come higher expectations from this year’s squad. The question is whether the Matadors can live up to them. Their next matchup against Montana State on Dec. 22 will say a lot for how the rest of the season will turn out.

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