The Cal State Northridge men’s basketball team (1-2) continues their play in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Preseason NIT Monday night against Western Kentucky University (WKU) at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. WKU was chosen as one of three sites to host the consolation round of the NIT.
In their last outing the Matadors picked up their first victory of the season against Texas State. The Matadors were behind for most of the second half due to turnovers and lack of rebounds, but Kenny Daniels’ career-high 27 points gave CSUN the comeback to prevail at the end.
The rally could give CSUN confidence going into Western Kentucky, since they fell behind early against Purdue and TCU— their first two games of the season—and were unable to manage a comeback.
Northridge has struggled defensively to start the season, giving up 84.7 points per game and being outrebounded 43.7-35.7. The Matadors have also let their opponents shoot 42.9 percent from the field.
On offense, Northridge was able to get it together against Texas State, scoring 85 points, but the prior two games CSUN was unable to break into the 70s.
The Matadors haven’t gotten good play from the their starting point guard Mark Hill, who is averaging a low 3.3 points and 0.7 assists.
Daniels is developing into CSUN’s go-to guy offensively, averaging 17 points per game.
Northridge has a big challenge against Western Kentucky, the back-to-back Sun Belt Conference champions. The Hilltoppers have won three NCAA Tournament games in the last two seasons and lost in the Sweet 16 against UCLA in 2008.
The Toppers are led by senior guard A.J. Slaughter, who was picked Preseason Player of the Year by the Sun Belt. Slaughter scored 30 points to start the season against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is averaging 20.5 points in the young season.
In the paint the Matadors will need to worry about junior forward Sergio Kerusch, who was named to the 2009 All-Sun Belt Preseason Second Team. In two games Kerusch is averaging 7.5 rebounds and 19 points. Tuesday in a loss to LSU, Kerusch led the Hilltoppers with 25 points.
After the WKU game, Northridge will play Coastal Carolina on Tuesday, rounding out their NIT play and then returning home to play Cal State Bakersfield on Nov. 30.