After starting the season 0-2 against Pac-10 opponents UCLA and Cal on the road, CSUN returns to the Matadome for its home opener on Saturday afternoon to face Vanguard University of Southern California.
Sluggish starts hurt the Matadors in the first two games, as they fell behind 15-0 to start the game Friday against UCLA and allowed Cal to jump out to a 15-2 run in the second half of Tuesday’s game.
Freshman guard Aqeel Quinn wants the team to play with intensity for 40 minutes each game.
“We were embarrassed at UCLA and for Cal we wanted to come out hard and show everybody we are better than that,” said Quinn, who had eight points versus the Golden Bears. “We didn’t come out focused in the second half (against Cal) and came out thinking about the first half.”
CSUN was never in contention versus the Bruins losing 83-50 but the Matadors held a 1-point advantage at halftime against Cal before falling apart in the second period to lose 83-60.
Losing to the Golden Bears and Bruins by a combined 56 points has senior guard Rashaun McLemore concerned.
“We have to execute on defense first and clean that up during practice,” said McLemore after scoring a career-high 24 points at Berkeley. “We are allowing too many points in the paint. We have to work hard and get ready for Saturday.”
With a tough 76 Classic tournament looming next week, the Matadors have a solid opportunity to pick up their first win of the season on Saturday since Vanguard competes in the lower conference National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The Lions had a split in the Las Vegas Tournaments last week, losing to Westminster (UT) and beating Northern Montana State University. Vanguard also played Fresno State in an exhibition game Wednesday night.
CSUN had trouble in its only exhibition game of the season, defeating Division III Redlands in overtime, 85-81, on Nov. 5.
CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell will be looking for his forwards to bounce back against Vanguard after miserable performances at UCLA and Cal.
“We need to have some sort of inside presence, which right now is what we are lacking. We are not scoring the ball in the inside,” Braswell said. “It’s putting a lot of pressure on us defensively.”
Senior forward Lenny Daniel had high expectations coming into the season but was no where to be found in the first two games as he combined for only two points and has yet to record a field goal.
Senior Michael Lizarraga, the only deaf basketball player in the Division I level, was the only Matador forward to make an impact, scoring 8 points against UCLA and 15 at Cal.
Lizarraga, who is from Dixon, California, made his ninth career start versus the Golden Bears as his friends and family made the 90-minute commute to watch him play.
“He was the one bright spot we had in the post,” Braswell said. “I’m extremely happy for him to have a chance to come home in his senior year and have so many friends and family come see him play. He stepped up in a big way.”