Matadors go down swinging in first round

Alonso Tacanga

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Kansas City, Mo. – With a game plan based on invisible things – belief and effort – the Matadors ran out under the Sprint Center’s bright lights Thursday morning. All their NCAA Tournament first round match-up Memphis believed was the second round would be played Saturday.

The Tigers’ belief came true. They beat the Matadors 81-70. Their made-up minds of secure victory changed quickly into the game, though.

The Matadors got out to a fast start and held No. 3 Memphis in check throughout. With 10:11 left in the second half, Vincent Cordell gave CSUN a 62-56 lead and the Tigers a reason to call for time.

CSUN had the Tigers walking back to their huddle looking at each other as if asking “what’s going on?”

After a quiet four-point first half, Rodrigue Mels finally turned into “Tournament guy” – the nickname the Matadors have for him due to his play rising up when it’s tournament time. Mels scored 15 points. Mark Hill was also tourney-good, scoring 14 points and giving CSUN its first lead of the second half, 44-43, with a 3-pointer.

The Matadors had been down by five moments earlier.

The Tigers unveiled their claws in crunch time. Antonio Anderson gave Memphis the lead for good with a jumper seven minutes from the end. CSUN was still within 72-68 with 2:30 to go, but Roburt Sallie got out of control and buried his ninth and tenth 3-pointers of the game to push the Tigers ahead by double-figures.

Tremaine Townsend was in-and-out of the game dealing four trouble. The forward, who scored 14 points, picked up his fourth foul11:18 to go.

Surprising even the most enthusiast of fans, the Matadors got out to a quick 9-2 lead. Memphis responded eventually and tied the game at 11-11 on the first of a string of Roburt Sallie 3-pointers.

The Tigers led 23-17 by the 9:17 half mark. CSUN didn’t fold. Kenny Daniels responded with a three-pointer at first, and then with a steal and dunk that strengthened the Matadors belief that it could be them upsetting a No. 2 seed for the first time since 2002. At halftime, CSUN had a morale win despite trailing 34-31.