Men’s basketball: Matadors shoot themselves into a loss at Santa Clara

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Men’s basketball: Matadors shoot themselves into a loss at Santa Clara

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Alonso Tacanga

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Aqeel Quinn (right) and the Matadors played solid defense against Santa Clara, but another poor offensive outing sealed their fate in a 71-58 loss Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Pobre

SANTA CLARA – As it’s been the theme for the whole season, 3-pointers weren’t falling for the Matadors Saturday night at the Leavey Center.

There were less than three minutes left in the second half and CSUN had only made a single 3-pointer for the period. The Matadors, however, remained unfazed and kept heaving them up.

The attempts only resulted in added scratches to the Santa Clara hoops.

“It’s kind of like that with the confidence,” CSUN guard Vinnie McGhee said. “I know if I miss a shot, I know I tell myself I’m going to make the next one.”

With the end result being a 9-for-31 performance for shots from beyond the arc and a 71-58 loss to the Broncos (5-2), the Matadors (1-6) couldn’t have gained much confidence from this outing.

CSUN held the Broncos to 29.2 percent shooting in the second half, but shot 25 percent itself, including 22 percent from deep (4 of 18).

At a point late in the game, CSUN was 1-for-12 in threes for the second half. McGhee added a couple in the final minute of the game to bring up the statistic.

The Matadors were rushing the offense, McGhee said.

“We were just taking bad shots and putting a lot of pressure on our defense,” said the senior, who finished with 11 points.

CSUN didn’t do much better offensively from inside the arc as it finished the game missing 43 of its 62 field goal attempts. Despite the struggles, however, the Matadors only trailed 55-48 with 7:07 left in the game.

Defense was keeping them within reach of an improbably victory.

“This was probably our best defensive effort all season long,” CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell said.

Unfortunately for Braswell’s team, the offensive struggles were just too great to overcome. Santa Clara, which was led by Kevin Foster’s 20 points, went on a 14-4 run to put the game out of reach with 1:15 to go.

“If we shoot the ball half decently, who knows how it ends up,” Braswell said. “We’re down eight or six points in the second half and we’re not making shots at all.”

It wasn’t only the Matadors’ inability to make a shot from wherever they took it, it was also their fouling, another trend of the young season.

CSUN sent the Broncos to the line 43 times in contrast to its 13 attempts. Santa Clara made good on 29 of those attempts.

So while Braswell credited his team for the best defensive outing of the year, it wasn’t an impeccable effort.

“That’s the hard part,” Braswell said. “It’s hard to say it’s a great defensive effort when you foul as much as you foul tonight.”

The Matadors started the night minus two big bodies due to the indefinite suspensions of forwards Thomas Jacobs and Frankie Eteuati. Freshman Stephen Maxwell, who had an impressive Division-I debut Wednesday against Cal State Bakersfield, got the start against Santa Clara, but two quick fouls relegated him to the bench for most of the first half.

Undermanned and all, CSUN took a 23-20 lead following a McGhee 3-pointer with 6:20 left in the first half. But the Broncos came back with a 7-0 run to regain the advantage. The Matadors went into halftime trailing 38-34. Guard Stephan Hicks scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the period.

CSUN was within striking distance of the Broncos for most of the second half, but couldn’t buy a bucket and fell to 0-5 on the road.

“It’s more mental than it is physical,” Braswell said of his team’s offensive bugaboos. “We got some guys that can shoot the ball better and we got to get them to shoot the ball better.”