The Matadors (13-15, 5-7 Big West) were unable to complete a successful second-half comeback as their tired legs got the best of them down the stretch in a 96-88 loss to the Idaho Vandals. Cal State Northridge continued its road woes (2-12), suffering from fatigue after four overtime games in their last six matchups.
Although CSUN set the tone early by going up 23-20 with 11 minutes to go in the first half, Idaho found a way to take back the momentum and finished the half with a 46-36 lead.
The Matadors have averaged 35.7 points per game in the first half of games this season, according to Team Rankings, while the Vandals have averaged 34.4. While season stats for overall points scored in the first half favors Cal State Northridge, Idaho burst ahead for the ten point lead at the half, keeping the Matadors on their toes in the second half as they attempted to catch up.
As both teams traded baskets to start the second half, CSUN came within single digits for the first time in the second half with 12:29 remaining, 65-56. But the momentum the Matadors built was lost in a matter of seconds as the Vandals responded with a 12-4 run to extend their lead to 17 points with 9:35 remaining.
CSUN continued to chip at the lead minute by minute, as they climbed within six points at 92-86 with 59 seconds to go. The Vandals put a stop to the run with their defense, limiting CSUN to just two points in the final minute of the game.
Despite occasionally weak offensive performances on the road earlier in the season, the Matadors shot an efficient 50 percent from the floor en route to 88 points. The Matadors have scored an average of 85 points in three road games in the month of February.
After giving up 46 points to Idaho in the first half, the Vandals scored 50 more in the second half for their best game of the season, eclipsing the 90-point mark this season for the first time. Sophomore center Tre Hale-Edmerson rejected two shots and helped CSUN contain the Vandals to just 40 points in the paint, but the Vandals drained 10 3-pointers and shot 61 percent from the floor in the second half.
Hicks continued to make every minute of his time on the court count as he shot 9-for-15 to score 21 points, keeping the CSUN shooting percentage at 50 percent. However, the normally aggressive Hicks who averages nearly six free throw attempts per game only had two shots from the charity stripe.
Despite his stellar night, and 21 points from junior forward Stephen Maxwell, their performances were overshadowed by Vandal junior guard Connor Hill’s 28 points. Hill connected on eight of his 11 3-point attempts.
The Matadors’ next game is Saturday versus the now-first-place UC Irvine Anteaters (17-9, 8-2 Big West) at the Matadome in a game which will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. The Anteaters defeated CSUN 72-66 on Jan. 23. Maxwell recorded a game-high 21 points and 15 rebounds but the Anteaters limited CSUN to just 35 percent shooting in a close victory.
Following the matchup with UC Irvine, CSUN will head on the road for two games before closing out the season at home on March 6 as they host the Long Beach State 49ers (11-14, 7-4 Big West).