CSUN men’s basketball: Consistency main focus during winter break

Gilberto Manzano

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Matador Lenny Daniel (5) wins the jump ball against Cal Lutheran on Tuesday night at the Matadome. Photo Credit: Patrick Dilanchian / Contributing Photographer

With the fall semester coming to an end, the Cal State Northridge men’s basketball team will not be resting during winter break as the Matadors have 10 games to play before the Spring 2011 semester starts in late January.

CSUN, who snapped a three-game losing streak Tuesday night with a victory over Cal Lutheran, has two more games to play, before starting the Big West Conference schedule.

Luckily for the Matadors (3-6) they won’t hit the hardwood until Dec. 18 at Cal State Bakersfield, giving the players an opportunity to focus on finals and improve during practices.

After facing the Roadrunners, Northridge returns home to square off against Santa Clara on Dec. 22.  Redshirt junior Vinnie McGhee said picking up victories over their two non-conference opponents will be critical heading into Big West play.

“These games are very important. They are must-wins to go into conference play with momentum,” said McGhee, who is averaging 7.2 points per game. “We have played a tough schedule and we have to build on that.”

One area the Matadors want to improve on is playing solid basketball for two halves instead of one. In games against Cal Lutheran, UCLA and Virginia Tech, CSUN had poor first halves but finished strong.

The opposite happened in games versus Cal, Air Force and Denver where the Matadors had solid first periods.

Senior point guard Dathan Lyles said the team isn’t panicking and have plenty of time to improve on their inconsistent play.

“We still have 20 something games to figure this out. It is a main topic of conversation in our locker room, at halftimes, before games, at practice it’s something we need to work on,” said Lyles, who is averaging 6.4 points and five assists per game.

With 10 new players on this year’s roster, CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell said chemistry is not the reason why the team can’t play well for 40 minutes.

“I don’t think this team has a chemistry issue it’s just this team has a lot of new guys that are trying to figure things out,” Braswell said.

Besides the inconsistency, CSUN wants to improve on defense during practices and hope it will transition into its games against Cal State Bakersfield and Santa Clara.

“We have to focus on defense against Cal State Bakersfield and get stops, that’s how we will go 2-0 and go into Big West play with momentum,” Lyles said.

The Matadors open Big West play with a two-game homestand against Pacific (Dec. 28) and UC Davis (Dec. 30).

Northridge will face Long Beach State at the Pyramid on Jan. 5 and then take a quick break from conference play to travel up north to take on Seattle University on Jan. 8.

Then CSUN, who was picked to finish eighth in the conference, continues its Big West play with a home match against UC Riverside (Jan. 13).

Northridge will get a chance at revenge when they travel to face Cal State Fullerton (Jan. 15), the team that eliminated CSUN in the first round of the Big West Tournament last season.

CSUN closes its winter break schedule at home against Seattle University (Jan. 19) and Cal Poly (Jan. 22), which will be televised on Fox Sports West.

Currently, the Matadors are fifth in the Big West in points scored per game with 69.4. CSUN is sixth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 73.1 points per game.