CSUN men’s basketball: Matadors season comes to an end after losing to defending champions UC Santa Barbara in semifinals

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CSUN men’s basketball: Matadors season comes to an end after losing to defending champions UC Santa Barbara in semifinals

Gilberto Manzano

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Matador Lenny Daniel walks off the court trailing behind his teammates after getting blown out by the Big West defending champions UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals. Photo Credit: Monique Muñiz / Sports Editor

Cal State Northridge immediately walked over to congratulate UC Santa Barbara as the final buzzer sounded on Friday night. Lenny Daniel opted to remain in his chair clutching on his white towel with a dazed look as his senior season came to an end.

Moments later, Daniel gradually stood up to shake hands with the Gauchos, but it was too late as most of the team was already headed to the locker room.

Similar to Daniel’s delayed walk, No. 3 seed CSUN got off to a slow start and fell behind by as much as 26 points en route to an 83-63 defeat against fifth-seeded UCSB in the Big West semifinals at the Honda Center.

The Matadors had no answers for Orlando Johnson, who scored 20 of his game-high 30 points in the first half. Along with Johnson, Jaime Serna, who scored 12 points in the first period, set the tempo for the Gauchos’ hot start.

“We didn’t do a good enough job on those guys (Johnson and Serna),” Northridge coach Bobby Braswell said. “In the first half they combined for 32 of their 40 points and we didn’t keep them in check.”

Daniel, a Big West all-first team member, had a tough time against Santa Barbara’s size and length. It seemed all of Daniel’s shot was contested by seven-foot-three Greg Somogyi and Serna.

“I don’t think they really affected me. I just played bad, missed easy shots and dunks,” said Daniel, who ended up scoring 16 points but only had two at halftime. “I let the team down.”

Braswell added: “He (Daniel) didn’t let us down. He carried us all year, so he has no reason to worry about letting anybody down.”

Daniel is one of five seniors that will be leaving the Matadors. However, CSUN has a bright future with eight freshmen returning.

“We will be more hungry (next season) and we have seen what it takes to be a good team,” said Matador freshman Josh Greene, who scored 12 points. “It’s all about what we do in the offseason and our preparation for next season.”

Greene’s back-to-back 3-pointers pulled the Matadors within 14 with 5:55 left in regulation, but that’s the closest CSUN got.

“This wasn’t a championship team, but I enjoyed coaching this team as much as any other group,” Braswell said.