With a three-game losing streak and possibility of losing one of its top players, CSUN couldn’t have asked for an easier opponent to beat up on.
After losing two road games in Colorado (Air Force, Denver), the Matadors will try to get back on track against Cal Lutheran, a team CSUN has dominated in past years, facing off tonight at the Matadome.
Northridge’s second leading scorer, Rashuan McLemore, suffered a concussion in the opening minutes of the second half Saturday against Denver and is doubtful for tonight’s matchup with the Kingsmen.
CSUN might be more willing to sit out McLemore since they’re 20-0 all-time against its Division III opponent.
Besides not having McLemore for most of the second period, one of the reasons why CSUN lost 66-63 to Denver was not getting defensive stops down the stretch.
Against Air Force, CSUN was able to stay within striking range until the Falcons pulled away for a 72-63 victory on Thursday.
“We weren’t mentally focused to play defense. Defense wins games and the only way we could have won was to get stops,” guard Dathan Lyles said. “It came down to stops and turnovers. In the Colorado trip, we shot ourselves in the foot.”
First-year assistant coach Jay Morris agrees with Lyles.
“It all comes down to doing the little things. We need to make free throws and we didn’t have some defensive stops that we needed and turned over the ball a little too much,” said Morris about the Matadors, who turned the ball over 40 times against the Falcons and Pioneers.
Even though the Matadors have played four major-conference teams this season (UCLA, Cal, Virginia Tech, DePaul), Morris said it didn’t prepare them against Air Force and Denver.
“The styles of play from (Air Force and Denver) are way different from what we have seen earlier this year. Those two teams try to confuse you on things they do,” Morris said.
According to redshirt junior guard Vinnie McGhee, the Matadors returned home winless from their Colorado trip due to their inability to play solid basketball for 40 minutes in a game.
“Felt like we beat ourselves. Both games we played good first halves but just weren’t able to put two good halves together in a game,” McGhee said. “We have been doing that a lot lately.”
With three games remaining before Big West Conference play, CSUN wants to dominate its opponents starting with Cal Lutheran.
“Not only do we have to beat (Cal Lutheran) but we have to beat them like Vanguard,” McGhee said, referring to CSUN’s 43-point victory against Vanguard Nov. 20. “We have to send a message (to the Big West) that we have had losses but we can still get back on track and be a championship-caliber team.”
With McLemore likely out against the Kingsmen, the Matadors want to practice without relying so much on their dynamic duo of Lenny Daniel and McLemore.
“We can’t always have Rashaun (McLemore) and Lenny (Daniel) and put all the weight on them,” McGhee said. “Everybody needs to contribute and if everybody does their parts, we will be good.”
The last time CSUN and Cal Lutheran played each other, the Matadors prevailed 73-62 on Nov. 14, 2008 at the Matadome.