After the fact, UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland admitted he had been worried about the Matadors.
CSUN justified that concern Sunday night. But it did it 20 minutes too late for its hope of ending what’s now a six-game losing streak.
The Matadors (1-6) dug themselves a huge early hole which even a second-half offensive outburst wasn’t able to overcome. Tremaine Townsend had 23 points and Kenny Daniels added 13, but a balanced Bruin attack that saw it assist 22 of its 35 baskets led No. 12 UCLA to a cruising 87-65 win over CSUN at Pauley Pavilion.
Josh Shipp and Jrue Holliday had 14 points apiece for UCLA.
‘We were on our heels defensively in the first half,’ CSUN Head Coach Bobby Braswell said. ‘We were overcautious, worried about what they were doing instead of what we needed to do.’
CSUN went with a zone defense that did little to prevent the Bruins from getting anything they wanted offensively in the opening period. UCLA’s ball movement had the Matadors skipping from left to right to try and cover the top and the wings, but to almost no avail. With only three minutes gone in the game, the Bruins already led 9-2.
CSUN responded. It got within four. Then, an 11-0 run by UCLA opened up a double-digit lead it kept throughout. The Bruins were ahead by 22 with 4:17 left in the period. They shot 64 percent from the field for those first 20 minutes.
Northridge finally figured out a way to put up points, but that still mattered little. The Matadors hiked their shooting up to 60 percent in the second half, but the Bruins also kept their hand hot. UCLA shot over 50 percent itself and finished the rout without any major complications.
Townsend airballed his first two shots, but went on to make 10 of his next 13 attempts.
‘I was in a good groove, but it still wasn’t good enough,’ he said.
It wasn’t all bad either, though.
The Matadors went from lowest to highest at the end of the first half. At one end, CSUN had a two-on-one fastbreak end in disgrace. With the man advantage, 6-foot-4 Rob Haynes went up for what should have been the simplest layup of the game, but instead had it become a sandwich as 6-foot-1 Jerime Anderson pinned his shot against the backboard. Northridge had its vengeance right away, though. In the very next possession, Daniels stole a pass intended for Anderson and headed the other way as time ran out in the period. The Bruin tried to repeat the feat, but Daniels’ hops made all the difference in the world as the starting forward gave Anderson a facial that sent the Matadors into halftime having cut the 22-point deficit to 41-27 and with something good to feel about.
UCLA, which was coming off a 68-64 loss at No. 8 Texas on Thursday, didn’t give many more of those in the second half.
Three three-pointers – two of them by Darren Collison (13 points) – helped expand the UCLA lead to 56-23 with 16:09 left. CSUN stuck around and even managed to cut the deficit to 15. A subsequent 7-0 run by the Bruins, however, killed any hope of a comeback. Leading 77-57 with just over four minutes to play, Howland emptied his bench. Braswell also waved the white flag two minutes later.
‘Obviously I’m not happy. Nobody likes to lose,’ Braswell said. ‘But I think we got better. Our execution was better.’
Braswell and the Matadors were also in search of a confidence-booster. Earlier this week, just days removed from their fifth straight loss, the coach admitted that some players were doubting themselves. Guard Deon Tresvant, who scored seven points in this one, didn’t deny the statement, but said the team’s confidence was growing by the game.
If anything they didn’t lose a lot of that Sunday night.
‘We did do some good things,’ said Daniels. ‘Things we worked on and we saw improvement on.’
The Matadors hope all that improvement can finally translate into a win Tuesday when they finally come back to The Matadome to face Denver at 7:05 p.m.
‘We can’t wait to get home,’ Townsend said. ‘We got to turn this thing around.’