After having its three-game winning streak snapped Thursday at UC Riverside, Cal State Northridge bounced back to defeat UC Irvine, 91-83, Saturday at the Matadome and remain in second place in the Big West standings. The Matadors recorded their sixth conference win, matching last season’s total.
Matador Lenny Daniel led all scorers with 22 points and had 10 rebounds to record his 12th double-double of the season, which is second in the Big West.
The Anteaters (10-14, 3-7 Big West) were without their leading rebounder and second leading scorer, junior forward Eric Wise, who was sidelined with a strained hamstring. The Matadors (9-14, 6-4 Big west) took advantage as they outscored UC Irvine 36-16 in points in the paint.
“They were pretty small without Wise,” said senior forward Daniel, who only trails Pacific’s Sam Willard for most double-doubles in the league. “I felt like I could take advantage in the paint even though they were double teaming me. “
Not only did Daniel have a solid game offensively, but he and the other veteran Matadors provided leadership for the freshman players.
“When we get down (the veterans) are always there,” said freshman Aqeel Quinn, who scored 12 points and had seven assists in 24 minutes. “So when we have our head down, they get in our face and tell us to cut that out and get it together. We learn from them and see how hard they work in practice.”
Daniel credits unselfishness and team chemistry for CSUN’s recent success.
“A lot of guys last year were selfish and tried getting their numbers to improve their resumes for when they go play overseas,” said Daniel about CSUN’s team last season, which went 11-21 overall and 6-10 in the Big West. “These young guys (freshman Matadors) just want to play and we (the veterans) want to win too because we’ve been through it last year. It’s just a better team (this season), we play together and it makes a difference.”
For the game, CSUN went 26-of-48 from the field (54.2 percent) and went 6-of-17 from the 3-point line (35.3 percent).
CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell was satisfied with the team’s defensive numbers.
“They are a really difficult team to guard,” Braswell said. “We reached our goals defensively.”
UC Irvine shot a cold 37.9 percent (22-of-58) from the floor and went 10-of-25 from three-point range (40 percent).
Rashaun McLemore, CSUN’s second-leading scorer, had 18 points and freshman Josh Greene chipped in 13.
UCI was led by Darren Moore, who had 20 points. Patrick Rembert and Mike Wilder had 14 points apiece.
The Matadors swept the season series against the Anteaters. On Jan. 27, the Matadors and Anteaters were in a close game that went down to the wire, but a McLemore 3-point basket that hit the backboard as the shot clock expired gave CSUN a four-point lead with 22 seconds left and eventually a 66-62 victory.
After a 9-9 tie to start the game, the Matadors went on a 22-4 run to take an 18-point advantage. The Anteaters responded with an 18-5 run to cut CSUN’s lead to 36-31 with 5:03 left in the first period.
UC Irvine continued to chip away at the deficit as they got within three after Rembert’s free throws made the score 40-37.
Quinn made a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first half to give CSUN a 49-40 lead at halftime.
The Matadors outscored UC Irvine in points in the paint (20-6) and went 14-of-25 shooting (56 percent) in the first period.
Rembert scored 12 points for UC Irvine and Daniel had 10 for CSUN at halftime.
Next up, the Matadors will go back on the road to take on Cal State Fullerton Thursday night at Titan Gym.