The CSUN men’s basketball team nearly shot 54 percent from the field as the Matadors beat the CSU Los Angeles Golden Eagles 90-75 in their first of two exhibition games in front of 1,285 people at the Matadome, Nov. 3.
Junior Mike Efevberha, who scored 28 points on 9-15 shooting from the field and 8-8 from the free throw line, led all scorers on the night. Efevberha played in his first game for CSUN after sitting out a year due to transfer rules. He added two assists and one steal in his 23 minutes of on the court.
“My teammates were setting real good screens for me, so I was able to get open,” Efevberha said. “I was so excited at the beginning of the game. I was just sitting there taking it all in. I am happy to be back.”
The first half started as preseason games often do – with mistakes. Two turnovers, two fouls and a missed layup opened the Matadors’ 2005-06 season. The first points of the game were scored after almost a minute gone by, as junior Jontae Vinson gave the Golden Eagles an early 2-0 lead. On the next CSUN possession freshman Rob Haynes scored the first Matador points of the season.
Each team alternated baskets over the next three minutes before the Matadors took an 8-6 lead on a Haynes jumper.
Then Efevberha got hot, scoring the next seven points, including a three-pointer that set off a 7-0 CSUN run.
CSUN eventually extended the lead to 21-12 with 13 minutes remaining in the first half. However, a scary moment for the Matadors occurred as senior Bakari Altheimer went for a lay up and was hit in the head and fouled by CSULA freshman Ralph Turner Jr. He spent the next several moments lying on the ground, but remained in the game.
“I was trying to go up for a lay up and the guy tried to block my shot and hit me on the head,” Altheimer said. “It was incidental and not serious.”
When the game resumed, the teams started to exchange baskets, but with the Matadors leading 25-20, Haynes hit a three-pointer and Efevberha made a lay-up to give the Matadors a 10-point lead with 8:19 left in the first half. The Golden Eagles would not quit as they cut the lead back to six.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, sophomore Jonathan Heard started to heat up, hitting four free throws and a layup. Junior Keith Everage got into the mix, making a layup and hitting one of two free throws to give the Matadors a 46-32 lead with less than a minute to play. Vinson answered with a layup for the Golden Eagles and the first half ended with a 46-34 Matador lead.
The Matadors shot 53 percent for the first half, compared to only 37 percent for CSULA. CSUN was more aggressive, shooting 18 free throws, making 12, whereas the Golden Eagles only made three. Junior Austin Waggener added six points and six rebounds to end the half.
The second half began with the Golden Eagles going on a 6-0 run, cutting the lead to eight before Waggener and Heard scored on back-to-back possessions, pushing the lead back to 10 at 50-40.
Head coach Bobby Braswell tried to alternate between man-to-man and zone defense, hoping to confuse the Golden Eagles.
“We have to get better at our man-to-man defense, our zone defense and our trap defense,” Braswell said.
With 14 minutes remaining in the game and a 62-50 CSUN advantage, the Matadors began to pull away. Aggressive play began to take its toll on the Golden Eagles defense, as CSUN got to the free throw line the next two possessions, making all four attempts. The Matador defense began to pick up as well, leading to a 67-52 CSUN lead. The lead would grow to 17, with an Efevberha jumper.
Along with Efevberha, Waggener and Heard reached the double-digit mark in points. Waggener had a double double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Heard had ten points, three steels and four assists in 22 minutes. Waggener, who is playing more due to the injury to junior Thomas Shewmake, also registered four assists, four blocks and three steels in 25 minutes.
“I was just focusing on rebounding and playing defense, that’s what coach Braswell wants me to do,” Waggener said. “Regardless of who is playing, I am going to play my hardest. I don’t feel like (the Shewmake injury) is a burden. I am going to play at the same intensity with or without Shewmake.”
The Golden Eagles were led by Vinson who had 23 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes. Junior Marques Hamilton contributed with 19 points and four rebounds in his 26 minutes for CSULA.
The Matadors, as a team, shot 80 percent from the free throw line, getting there 36 times, compared to only 22 for CSULA.
Last season the Matadors averaged 17 three-point attempts per game, however, the CSULA game the Matadors only shot 11, converting on three.
“We got some guys down there that can score and we feel that if we can get it to (them), it will make it easier for our perimeter guys,” Braswell said. “It is our focus to be a little more inside. We have not been that way in the past.”
Even though the Matadors forced 23 turnovers, CSUN turned the ball over an abysmal 21 times.
“Our offense played a little bit better than I thought we would, but the defense was not as good,” Braswell said. “Besides turning the ball over, I thought our offensive execution was pretty good.”
Braswell said that Shewmake began running last week and could be ready to play on Friday, for the team’s final exhibition game.
The Matadors will host CSU Dominguez Hills at 7:05 p.m. at the Matadome on Nov. 11.
Justin Satzman can be reached at email@example.com.