M-Bball: In need of a win, CSUN faces off against Bakersfield

Forward Thomas Jacobs (12) and the Matadors will be looking for a second win tonight. Photo Credit: Andres Aguila / Daily Sundial

Gilberto Manzano

Forward Thomas Jacobs (12) and the Matadors will be looking for a second win tonight. Photo Credit: Andres Aguila / Daily Sundial

Even though the 2011-12 season is only five games young, sophomore forward Thomas Jacobs is calling tonight’s home game against Cal State Bakersfield a “must-win situation.”

With the Matadors (1-4) dropping four of their first five games, including three road losses by 19 points or more,  Jacobs can’t be blamed for saying the non-conference affair is so critical.

And some home cooking could be exactly what CSUN needs to get back on track.

“We’ve had a tedious road schedule so far and we’re all excited to be back on our home court,” Jacobs said.

The Matadors have played games at Hawai’i, Boise State and Drake (Iowa). Such a grueling road schedule has taken a toll on CSUN’s freshmen, according to sophomore guard Aqeel Quinn.

“I think we were waiting for a home game, I don’t know why,” Quinn said about his team, which is the youngest among Division I schools. “Being away so much and traveling was rough on us, especially on the freshmen.”

Besides the traveling, lack of chemistry has been another reason for the Matadors’ poor start, Quinn said.

With Quinn, CSUN’s starting point guard, missing the first four games due to a left quad injury, it’s understandable if chemistry hasn’t been at its best.

“I’m getting back into the flow and it kind of threw everything off,” said Quinn, who returned to the hardwood Saturday night against Drake. “We got to want to win and we have to have more chemistry on and off the floor.”

Freshman Stephan Hicks has been impressive offensively to start his collegiate career, leading the Matadors in scoring with 18.8 points per game. Quinn noticed most of Hicks’ points came off offensive rebounds.

“The first few games, he was getting all his points on offensive rebounds, but now I was setting him up in the last game, trying to give him easy shots,” Quinn said. “He just has to knock them down.”

Despite Quinn trying to give Hicks easier looks at the basket against Drake, it was his lowest offensive outing as a Matador. Hicks scored 10 points on 5 of 10 shooting. The 6-foot-5 guard, who averages a team-high 9.4 rebounds, said Drake defended him tough and expects more of the same against upcoming opponents.

“(Head) coach (Bobby Braswell) told me it was going to get harder for me because teams are going to start scouting me and making things tougher for me,” Hicks said.

Speaking of defense, the Matadors haven’t been pleased with theirs so far.

For the season, Northridge is allowing teams to score 79.2 points per game compared to their 66.2 points. On the glass, CSUN is giving up 43.0 rebounds per game.

“Our defense is lacking. You can see it in the losses, but right now we’re focusing a lot on defense and doing rebounding drills,” Hicks said.

The Matadors will face a Bakersfield (3-1) team that’s on a three-game winning streak, which includes victories over Big West Conference teams Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton.

The Roadrunners are led by junior guard Issiah Grayson, who averages a team-high 13.5 points per game.

CSUN will be looking for revenge after losing against the Roadrunners 70-69 on Dec. 18 last season on a buzzer-beating shot.

“That last shot really hurt us, but we’re ready to get this W,” Quinn said.