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 extends winning streak to seven to open new year

Guard+Gianni+Hunt+drives+to+the+right+side+of+the+floor+and+floats+the+ball+up+into+the+basket+to+score+the+first+points+for+the+Matadors+at+the+Premier+America+Credit+Union+Area+on+Jan.+6+in+Northridge%2C+Calif.
Kevin Khachatryan
Guard Gianni Hunt drives to the right side of the floor and floats the ball up into the basket to score the first points for the Matadors at the Premier America Credit Union Area on Jan. 6 in Northridge, Calif.

CSUN men’s basketball hosted the University of Hawaii on Saturday night, looking to pick up where they left off as they extended their winning streak to seven. Forward De’Sean Allen-Eikens led the team in scoring with 20 points, while guard Gianni Hunt scored a season-high 16 points and collected six rebounds in his third start. Forward Keonte Jones also contributed 13 points, six rebounds, five steals, and four blocks.

Guard Jared Barnett holds the ball as he winds the clock down with 30 seconds left in the first half at the Premier America Credit Union Arena on Jan. 6 in Northridge, Calif. (Kevin Khachatryan)

After winning their last two conference games on the road against Cal Poly and Long Beach State, the Matadors (12-3, 3-0 Big West) returned home and defeated the Warriors of Hawaii (9-6, 1-2 Big West), 76-66.

“[Gianni] was terrific, having him step up to that next level of play has helped us,” head coach Andy Newman said. “Guys are gonna have to step up, and it was good to see Gianni do that tonight.”

The Matadors were trailing 9-2 early in the game as Hawaii knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers to put the Matadors in a hole three minutes into the game. However, CSUN would fight back with its own 9-2 run behind four points from Allen-Eikens and a three-point play from forward Mahmoud Fofana to tie the game, 11-11.

Jones scored five straight points for the Matadors, capitalizing on three fast breaks that turned into a bucket and three free throws after he got fouled twice on the open floor. But Hawaii would score the following six points to go back in front 18-14 at the 10:41 mark in the first half after two straight Matador turnovers.

A three-pointer from Hawaii would push the lead to 24-18, but CSUN would go on a 7-0 run after getting four straight defensive stops. Jones scored on two consecutive possessions capping off the run with a three-point play and a fastbreak layup to give the Matadors a 25-24 lead. The half would end in a tie after guard Dionte Bostick hit a huge three-pointer with 40 seconds left to make the score 37-37.

“We have to get back to our defensive rebounding assignments,” head coach Andy Newman said after getting outrebounded 22-18. “We missed a lot in the first half, talked about making adjustments in the second half, and outrebounded them by seven.”

Matador Forward Keonte Jones knocks down two free throws in the first half to tie the game 12-12 at the Premier America Credit Union Area on Jan. 6 in Northridge, Calif. (Kevin Khachatryan)

The second half saw the Matadors regain the lead at 45-42 after Bostick made back-to-back baskets with 17:25 left in the second half. But the Warriors responded with a 7-0 run after getting three defensive stops and converting on three of their next four possessions to take a 49-45 advantage.

The visiting team would hold a comfortable lead until 11:51 left to play when Allen-Eikens gave the Matadors a 51-50 lead at the free-throw line.

Hunt came up huge in his third start, shooting 55 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range, replacing guard Jordan Brinson, who missed the last three games due to an ankle injury.

CSUN’s defense would be the story of the game down the stretch in the last few possessions, as a bucket by forward Jasman Sangha, followed by back-to-back steals and a jumper by Jones, gave CSUN a 66-61 edge. With 2:36 left in regulation, Hunt made a clutch three to extend the lead to 69-63, and Allen-Eikens hit another critical shot on the next possession to stretch the lead to 71-63. CSUN made five free throws in the closing moments, including four from Hunt, to seal the win.

“I’m a winner, “ Hunt said. “I’m all about winning; I pretty much try to do a little bit of everything out on the court and just play my hardest to win. We must take advantage of the moments and seize the opportunities. I trust my teammates to play the right way and win.”

The Matadors will travel to UC Davis (8-7, 3-1 Big West) for a game January 11 at 6 p.m. on ESPN+ as they look to extend their winning streak to a season-high eight games in a row.

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