Story by Justin Vigil and Tyler Wainfeld
Men’s basketball nearly pulled off the upset of New Mexico but were downed by a miracle shot that won the Lobos the game 87-84.
With less than 20 seconds left in the second half, CSUN freshman Elijah Harkless stole the ball on a high pass. After running some clock, forward Lamine Diane would tie the game on a clutch jumper in the paint with just six seconds left in the game.
Diane led the team with 34 points off 15-28 shooting from the floor in his Matador debut.
The Lobos called a timeout and came out calm. New Mexico guard Anthony Mathis dribbled the ball up the sideline and pulled up from way behind the arc. The shot somehow banked in and CSUN was stunned, trailing by three with less than a second on the clock.
Sophomore guard Terrell Gomez attempted to take the game to overtime with a half-court heave but came up empty.
The Matadors played well but couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. The Lobos would sink 22 of 29 free throws while the Matadors struggled from the line, going 11 of 21.
The big three by Mathis officially started the Gottfried era on the negative side, but he liked what he saw from his team.
“I thought our players played as hard as they possibly could,” Gottfried said. “We’re going to get better. There’s a lot of great things to build on tonight and a lot of positives. We understand this is a building process. We’d all like to conquer Rome in one night but it just doesn’t happen that way.”
Sophomore guard Terrell Gomez is the undisputed leader of this team and played well, scoring 21 points, including four three-pointers, to go along with three assists.
“This is a great group of guys. Very competitive. We got a great team,” Gomez said. “We’re going to get a lot better and we can battle it out with any team.”
Gomez made it a point to single out the fans for creating “the best atmosphere (he’s) ever seen” at CSUN, with the crowd chanting “let’s go CSUN” during the timeout before Mathis silenced the gym with his game-winning shot.
Harkless also looked strong and while not the sharpshooter that Gomez is, Harkless still registered five points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals in his collegiate debut.
Also making his debut but from the bench was former NBA champion Mo Williams, who Gottfried picked as one of his assistants, though Williams still felt like one of the players watching a tight game such as this one.
“I joke with my players, after the game I said ‘Man we lost and I still feel like a player’, you know it hurt.” Williams said laughing. “It’s not supposed to hurt when you’re a coach. You’re supposed to be able to go home and go to sleep.”
The team is confident and, according to Gottfried and Gomez, has the mindset that they can beat any opponent.
“There’s nothing like having a team that will play hard for you,” Gottfried said. “These guys are hungry, they’re excited, they’re eager. If they play that way and play hard every night, great things will happen”
CSUN will now hit the road for a pair of away games. First, the Matadors will face the Pepperdine Waves on Saturday Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. Northridge then heads to Loyola-Marymount on Tuesday Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. The Lions are coming off a 75-43 thrashing of Westcliff but will have their first real challenge in the next week, facing UNLV followed by CSUN.
“We got a lot of young players. Guys are going to get better over time. But I think the challenge here is going to be fun,” Gottfried said.