CSUN men’s basketball tames Lions in home opener

Gilberto Manzano

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Matador Dathan Lyles (10), who had 16 points and had seven assist, steals the ball in the second half of CSUN’s game on Saturday. Photo Credit: Monique Muñiz / Assistant Sports Editor

The best way to bounce back from two Pac-10 beatings is returning home to face an NAIA team.

After losing by a combined 56 points at UCLA and UC Berkeley, CSUN responded with a 43-point victory in its home opener on Saturday afternoon.
The Matadors had four players in double figures, as they picked up their first win of the season after cruising by Vanguard, 109-66, at the Matadome.

“Coming off two tough loses against Pac-10 teams, I thought our guys had the right attitude. It didn’t matter who we were playing, just mattered how we were playing,” head coach Bobby Braswell said.

Before the game started Braswell challenged his team to play tough defense and execute on offense against the Lions.

“I told them the challenge wasn’t Vanguard. The challenge was us making sure we stepped out on the floor and play the way we need to play,” said Braswell, who improved his home opener record to 14-1.        

CSUN’s constant pressure forced the Lions (1-1) into 26 turnovers and the Matadors (1-2) picked up 15 steals.

On offense senior point guard Dathan Lyles contributed seven of the team’s 28 assists, a season-high. Lyles, who had a career-high in assists, also chipped in 16 points and four steals.

“Coaches keep pounding it into our heads to get better every day. That’s one thing I focus on and leading the team, getting assists and playing good defense,” Lyles said. “Also, just getting out to a good run to start the game.”

Early on in the game when the score was tied at 2, CSUN went on a 13-3 run and never relinquished the lead. CSUN’s biggest advantage in the first half was a 27-point lead after Lyles scored on a fast break layup, putting the Matadors ahead 38-11 with eight minutes and 11 seconds left before halftime.

The Lions, however, were able to cut the deficit to 14 points, 47-33, with 3:18 left in the first period but the Matadors quickly gained the momentum back with a 9-0 run to close the half.

One of the key plays of CSUN’s run was Lyles’ alley-oop pass to Lenny Daniel for a dunk, which had the Matadome crowd roaring, as they went into the locker room up 56-33.

In the second half the Matadors continued to punish Vanguard as they extended their run to 22-1.

Vanguard didn’t record a field goal for almost 10 minutes, with the dry spell starting with 5:19 remaining in the first period and ending with Taylor Kelley’s 3-pointer at the 14:47 mark of the second period.

Northridge’s advantage ballooned to 44-points, 108-64, with 1:08 left in the game.

The Matadors shot 40-of-67 from the field (59.7%) and went 25-of-29 from the free throw line (86.2%).

Freshman Josh Greene had a team-high 17 points and Lion Cameron Nettles had a game-high 18 points.

After a dreadful start to the season where he scored one point apiece in two games, senior forward Daniel bounced back with 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

“I know the competition wasn’t the same from before but it’s still good to see the ball go into the basket,” said Daniel, who didn’t have a field goal in prior two games. “That’s a big confidence boost for me and for the team to build on for next week.”

Daniel said the Lion defense was giving him space on the court compared to the UCLA and Cal defenses that swarmed him everytime he had the ball.

“I had more freedom to move around. The bigger teams like to pack it inside and force me to shoot the ball out on the perimeter and not let anyone go inside,” Daniel said. “With my size advantage I was able to get into the paint against Vanguard.”

Next up, the Matadors have a tough 76 Classic tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center starting against No. 24 Virginia Tech on Thursday.
Lyles said the first win of the season will prepare them for their battle with the Hokies.

“Feels good to get that monkey of your back and now we have some momentum going against Virginia Tech,” Lyles said.