Men’s Basketball: Missed free throws costly in overtime loss

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    The Matadors fell to 2-14 on the road with a double overtime loss to the UC Riverside Highlanders, 105-104. Photo Credit: Araceli Castillo / Daily Sundial

    After falling short in a close game on Thursday, the Matadors (14-17, 6-9 Big West) came up short once again, losing to the UC Riverside Highlanders (9-19, 4-10 Big West) 106-105 Saturday at SRC Arena.

    There were two overtime periods needed to determine the outcome. Both teams could not pull away from each other as the game saw multiple lead changes. However, missed free throws haunted the Matadors. Junior forward Stephen Maxwell missed a free throw near the end of regulation sending the game to overtime and freshman guard Aaron Parks missed a late free throw to tie the game, resulting in a Highlander victory.

    Senior guard Josh Greene led Cal State Northridge with 26 points and six assists, while junior guard Stephan Hicks added 24 points and four steals. Maxwell finished with a double-double scoring 25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to go along with three steals.

    Northridge got off to a good start knocking down their first few shots and heading to the free throw line early, but UC Riverside’s junior forward Steven Thornton hit a big 3-pointer to put the Highlanders up by two points early. Both teams would exchange the lead with chances at the charity stripe.

    With the game tied at 13, the Matadors would give up two offensive rebounds leading to a layup by sophomore forward Taylor Johns to give the Highlanders a two point lead. The Matadors started to heat up with Greene getting a jump shot to go down along with a 3-pointer while Maxwell hit two shots of his own.

    Trailing by two points, the Highlanders would tie the game with a jump shot by freshman guard Sam Finley to end the half with the score at 37 apiece.

    In the second half, the teams were neck-and-neck, exchanging baskets until the Matadors began to pull away with the lead. The Matadors went on a 10-3 run after a 3-pointer by Greene with 15:42 remaining in the half to put CSUN’s lead at 57-49.

    UC Riverside countered with a 9-2 run of their own to cut the Matador lead to just one point after a layup by senior forward Chris Patton with a little under ten minutes remaining in the second half. Patton led all scorers in the game 30 points to go along with 11 rebounds.

    With just three seconds left in regulation, Cal State Northridge was in the position to win with Maxwell at the charity stripe where he made the game tying free throw, but would miss the second that could have potentially given the Matadors the win.

    In the first overtime period, the Highlanders stayed in front for the majority of the time, but lead by no more than 3 points. Finley hit two free throws with 16 seconds and the score at 97-94, putting UC Riverside ahead, but a three-pointer by Hicks with just one second left on the clock would go down to send the game to a second overtime.

    The game stayed close in the second overtime with the Matadors having a short lead for most of the period. It was with 36 seconds left when the Highlanders would tie the game and take the lead at 104-103 after a pair of free throws by Finley.

    Down by three points, Parks went into the paint where he hit a layup and earned a free throw with just one second remaining. Parks was not able to deliver the game tying free throw and the Highlanders would escape the win in the overtime thriller.

    The Matadors will return home to play their final game of the regular season against Long Beach State 49ers (13-15, 9-5 Big West) on Mar. 6.  Although Northridge has clinched a spot in the Big West Tournament, they can still jump into the fifth seed with a win and losses from the Cal State Fullerton Titans and Cal Poly Mustangs, or they can fall to the seventh seed with a loss and wins by both conference opponents.