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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Matadors upset Gauchos in overtime thriller

#3 Forward Kyle Frelow defending UC Santa Barbara’s #10 Jason Fontenet II in the first half on March 13, 2024 at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada.

“Basketball is back at Cal State Northridge.”

CSUN head coach Andy Newman couldn’t wait to get these words off his chest.

It’s been ten years since the last time the CSUN men’s basketball team won a Big West conference tournament game.

That didn’t matter as the seventh-seeded Matadors defeated sixth-seeded UC Santa Barbara 87-84 in overtime in their first round matchup of the 2024 Big West Basketball Championships on Wednesday night.

“It’s March, it’s college basketball, there’s gonna be lead changes… that’s why they call it March Madness,” Newman exclaimed.

The Matadors were down to just nine players due to injury, and were reduced to seven in the overtime period, but they still pulled through. Going into the tournament, Mahmoud Fofana and Jordan Brinson suffered season-ending injuries, leaving the Matadors shorthanded.

It was an emotional performance from CSUN as they managed to knock off the reigning Big West champs and move on to the quarterfinals.

“Games like that, it feels like you win them and lose them seven times throughout it,” Newman said.

Keonte Jones turned in one of his best performances of the season as he led the Matadors with 24 points on the night.

“It was his birthday today, so there’s extra emotion on that,” Newman said of Jones’ performance.

Like a heavyweight boxing match, the Matadors were going blow for blow with the Gauchos early on in the first half.

“It was two teams throwing haymakers,” Newman noted.

Both teams couldn’t gain any separation from each other in the first half. In fact, the only differential between the two teams offensively was that Santa Barbara made one more field goal than CSUN. But the Matadors were making their threes as they shot 6-12 from behind the arc in the first.

However, the game changed with 13:26 left in the second half as Gianni Hunt fouled out after picking up his fifth foul, which happened to be a technical.

Hunt had 11 points on 3-6 shooting from three for CSUN when he fouled out, leaving the Matadors down another ball handler.

Newman turned to Jared Barnett off the bench, who produced an effective defensive performance with his play.

Jones made a three with 11:18 left in the second half to give the Matadors their largest lead of the game at nine, 61-52, but that didn’t stop the Gauchos.

The next five minutes saw the Gauchos go on an 18-8 run to take the lead 70-69, with 6:25 left in the second half.

That was the last lead the Gauchos would see as the Matadors came back to tie it up.

CSUN scrambled to take a 5-point lead with 1:04 left thanks to a Jones layup.

That was the last basket CSUN would make in regulation as they allowed the Gauchos to slowly creep back in. Ajay Mitchell tied it at 79 after making both his free throws with 11 seconds left in the game.

Mitchell, named to the All-Big West first team, would end up with a game-high of 36 points for Santa Barbara.

The overtime period saw the Matadors play their best defense of the season. They didn’t allow the Gauchos to make a single field goal and forced Santa Barbara to go 0-11 from the field.

However, things got tight for Newman’s squad when Barnett fouled out with 4:32 left in the overtime period.

Despite the foul trouble, CSUN managed to escape the first round with a victory against the Gauchos 87-84. They move onto the quarterfinals to face Hawaii in the 2024 Big West Basketball Championships on Thursday evening.

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