It will be a special game for the five Matador seniors being honored tonight at the Matadome against UC Santa Barbara, but also a vital matchup as Cal State Northridge will try to climb up the Big West standings and position themselves for a better seed in the conference tournament.
Seniors Raymond Cody, Lenny Daniel, Michael Lizarraga, Dathan Lyles, and Rashaun McLemore will all be recognized on Senior Night. Lyles said he is looking forward to being honored, but is more focused on getting a victory in his last game at the Matadome.
“It is Senior Night, but we are looking at this game like we need it. It’s our last time playing on this court and we are going to make the best out of it,” Lyles said. “We are looking to win and to get a better seed in the conference tournament.”
With only three games remaining on the season, the Matadors have fallen to a fourth place tie with the Gauchos. If CSUN stays in the top four, it will get an automatic spot into the quarterfinals and avoid playing in the first round of the Big West tournament.
CSUN, which only needs one victory to reach 700 wins in school history, currently holds the tiebreaker over UC Santa Barbara after defeating the Gauchos, 70-69, on Jan. 29 at the Thunderdome.
The Matadors are coming off a non-conference road victory over Eastern Washington, but have a two-game losing streak in Big West play. Northridge, which was in second place two weeks ago, lost to league-leader Long Beach State at home and got crushed at second-place Cal Poly.
“It was a small victory for us (the Eastern Washington game) coming off two (Big West) games where we didn’t play well at all defensively,” Cody said.
Tonight’s game is similar to CSUN’s matchup against Cal Poly a week ago. The Matadors had defeated the Mustangs in their first matchup, but Cal Poly adjusted in the second game and never let CSUN get any rhythm offensively.
Cody said every team makes adjustments in the second meeting and just have to be prepared.
“Cal Poly made adjustments and we just didn’t really play well that game, but I don’t look at the UCSB game as the same,” Cody said. “If we play our game we will be alright.”
A year ago, six Matador seniors endured an embarrassing Senior Night after getting routed, 66-47, against Pacific.
Lyles said the seniors last season took the wrong approach on their Senior Night.
“Not to take a shot at them but they went about it the wrong way. They knew it was their last game and they were going to shoot the ball like it’s an open gym, but for us it’s a normal game,” Lyles said.
It has been a turnaround season for the Matadors as they already have matched their win totals from a year ago. CSUN is 12-16 overall and 7-6 in Big West play, an improvement from its 11-21 overall and 6-10 Big West records from last year.
UC Santa Barbara (14-11, 7-6 Big West) is 5-6 on the road and have the top two Big West leading scorers in Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally.
In the previous meeting between the two teams, it was a battle between McLemore and Johnson. McLemore scored a career-high 26 points and Johnson a game-high 28 points.
CSUN has won five out of the last six meetings against the Gauchos.