Behind strong play from freshman guard Donovan Johnson, who nailed two key 3-pointers en route to a team-high 19 points off the bench, the Matadors overcame a five point halftime deficit and defeated Pepperdine 81-75 Friday night at the Matadome.
Pepperdine caused problems for Northridge in the first half by making six 3-point shots, forcing turnovers and hitting a high percentage of their free throws. They tampered with CSUN’s offensive rhythm by forcing both junior guard Josh Greene and sophomore forward Stephan Hicks to the bench with foul trouble.
“It hurt us that (Hicks and Greene) both got in foul trouble in the first half. I had to take them out with two fouls,” said head coach Bobby Braswell.
In the second half, forward Stephen Maxwell and Greene led an offensive outburst that erased Pepperdine’s 13 point lead midway through the second half. Maxwell finished the game with 15 points on an efficient 5 of 8 from the field and pulled down six rebounds while Greene made bank from the charity stripe, hitting 9 of 10 free throws to finish with 16 points.
“I felt like it was a battle at first. In the first half, we had been punched in the mouth but we had to protect our home so we came out in the second half and showed a lot of heart,” Maxwell said.
Pepperdine started to show signs of fatigue as they missed six continuous free throws and had several turnovers in the last 10 minutes of the game. Northridge pushed the pace, scored easy points in the paint and made crucial free throws to secure a lead they never looked back from with five minutes remaining in the second half.
Johnson, who shot a blazing 7 of 10 from the field (3 of 4 from beyond the arc), also added three steals on the night to cap off a strong debut.
Braswell said Johnson was both effective on both the defensive and offensive sides of the floor, and also added that he’s proud of the young freshman.
Greene credited the bench as part of the team’s success for tonight’s game as they finished with 33 combined points.
“It’s not always about Stephan and me, we have a great team this year. We’re very deep so that’s going to take us a long way,” Greene said.
The Matadors will play at home against Eastern Washington on Monday.
To hear interview with Coach Braswell click here.