March Sadness!

Gilberto Manzano

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CSUN coach Bobby Braswell holds his head in his hands in the final moments of his team’s 84-76 loss to Cal State Fullerton in the first round of the Big West Tournament on Wednesday night at the Anaheim Convention Center. The defeat brought the Matadors’ season to an end. Photo Credit: Sarah Smith / Staff Photographer

Anaheim — During a timeout with 38 seconds left in the Matadors’ Big West Tournament matchup against Cal State Fullerton, CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell huddled his players up to draw up the next play.  Senior Vincent Cordell decided to isolate himself from the pack.

With CSUN trailing 81-71, the frustrated Cordell sat on the scorer’s table biting on his jersey as the Matadors’ season ran out of time. Then, to break the huddle of the last timeout of 2009-10, Cordell raised his arm in a lazy manner.

Cordell’s actions summed up the way the Matadors’ season turned out only a year after reaching the NCAA Tournament. CSUN finished its season by losing to the Titans, 84-76, in the first round on Wednesday night at the Anaheim Convention Center.

“We are not going to three-peat (as Big West champions), that’s for sure,” Braswell said jokingly afterward. “Sometimes, you don’t end up on the right side of the scoreboard, even when you do things right.”

The right things Braswell appeared to be talking about only came at the start of the game for the Matadors (11-21). CSUN attacked the paint in almost every possession and jumped to an early lead. The Matadors led for most of the first half until Bryce Webster’s layup put the Titans (16-14) ahead, 24-23, with 8:02 to go before halftime.

“We were trying to pound it in and get our running game going,” said senior forward Willie Galick, who scored 13 points. “It was working for the first part, and then we had some hiccups over some foul trouble.”

After Galick picked up his second foul at the 10:55 mark, the Matadors lost most of their size, especially with forward Lenny Daniel not being able play for failing to fulfill CSUN academic requirements.

The Titans’ Gerard Anderson let the Matadors know just how much bigger they were after he dunked over CSUN guard Vinnie McGhee with 11:17 to go to make it 55-45 Titans. The play got the fans into the game and fueled Fullerton’s momentum.

CSUN wasn’t completely done, though. McGhee’s 3-pointer three minutes later brought the Matadors within 60-55, the closest CSUN got in the second half. A subsequent 10-0 Fullerton run, however, ballooned the lead up to 15 with 5:58 to go. The Matadors couldn’t recover after that.

Cordell chipped in 12 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. Senior Mark Hill scored a team-high 15 points while senior Kenny Daniels contributed 13 points.

Titan forward Jer’Vaughn Johnson had his way against the Matadors in the paint and scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Devon Peltier did his part in the perimeter for the Titans as he went 5-of-12 from long range and scored 19 points.

The 84 points Fullerton scored marked the 10th time this season the Matadors let an opponent score more than 80 points in a game.

All year long, defense was a problem for the Matadors, who ranked eighth in the conference in points allowed per game (75. 1).

Another of the Matadors’ woes this season was committing 17.5 turnovers per game. Against the Titans, they gave up 18.

Braswell felt poor shooting outside the paint contributed to a lot of turnovers this season for the Matadors, who shot 39.1 percent from the field overall and went 7-of-20 from three-point range against Fullerton.

“When you have a tough time scoring on the perimeter, you’re going to attack, and with that, you’re going to have the tendency to turn the ball over,” Braswell said.

The Matadors ranked last in the Big West in 3-point percentage at .310. CSUN was also last in assists, only being able to record 11.3 per game.

Hill struggled at the point-guard position all season long, but will always remember he helped the Matadors get to an NCAA Tournament in 2009.

“I feel like it was a great run … Unfortunately, we had a tough year this year, but last year, it felt like a dream come true,” Hill said.

For Braswell, he will say his goodbyes to his six seniors and go into his 15th season at CSUN trying to get back on top of the Big West.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of my team, especially the seniors,” Braswell said. “This wasn’t the kind of year the seniors wanted to have, but, overall, we lost a lot coming into this year and (the seniors stepped up). It’s now rebuilding (for the 2010 -11 season).”