Men’s Basketball: Matadors eye second place against Cal Poly

Gilberto Manzano

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After falling short against league-leading Long Beach State Saturday, Cal State Northridge will try to climb back up to second place in the Big West as it travels to San Luis Obispo tonight to take on Cal Poly, who has a one-game advantage in the conference standings over the Matadors.

“We have our work cut out, we have to go to Cal Poly and they are sitting in second by themselves and we have a chance to get ourselves back in that mix if we can go in there and win on Wednesday, which makes that game a lot bigger for us,” said CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell after Northridge fell to the 49ers, 79-62, at the Matadome.

Entering Saturday’s showdown, CSUN was tied with the Mustangs for second and trailed the 49ers by two games. The Matadors were overmatched by Long Beach’s talented starting five and allowed Casper Ware to score a game-high 22 points.

Freshman Matador Josh Greene said his team is still the better team, but allowing Ware to control the game cost them the victory.

“I feel we are the best team in this conference even though we lost,” Greene said. “They have one dude (Ware), that’s it and we let that one dude do whatever he wanted.“

CSUN will now have to transition from a talented scoring team in Long Beach to arguably the best defensive team in the conference in Cal Poly.

The Mustangs lead the nation in 3-point field goal defense, limiting opponents to 26.8 percent from long range. Also, Cal Poly is 10th in the country in scoring defense, only allowing 58.7 points per game.

The team from San Luis Obispo has held five opponents under 50 points, including Saturday’s 56-40 win over UC Riverside.

Cal Poly is on a five-game winning streak since losing back-to-back games to Northridge and UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 22 and 27.

CSUN does have success against the Mustangs’ tough defense, as they are the only team to score 80 points on Cal Poly this season. Vinnie McGhee and Lenny Daniel had 20 and 18 points respectively in the Matadors, 80-65, victory over the Mustangs at the Matadome.

Senior forward Daniel leads Northridge in scoring and rebounding with 15.8 points per game and 9.4 rebounds.  Senior guard Rashaun McLemore is second on the team in points with an average of 15.5.

The Mustangs are led by David Hanson, who is averaging 15.8 points and 6 rebounds a game.

The last time CSUN faced the Mustangs at Mott Gym, Northridge suffered a tough, 73-72, loss on Jan. 23, 2010.

Northridge has a 2-8 road record this season.