Efevberha’s 30 leads Matadors past Toros

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The CSUN men’s basketball team, led by junior Mike Efevberha’s 30 points, beat the CSU Dominguez Hills Toros 96-73 in CSUN’s final exhibition game Nov. 11 in front of 1,333 people on Wells Fargo Court at the Matadome.

Efevberha was 10 of 16 from the field, including 7-7 from the free throw line and two assists, two rebounds and four steals in 28 minutes of play. Efevberha is averaging 29 points per game for the Matadors preseason.

“I kept my game en tact,” Efevberha said. “Everybody on our team communicates well and guys look up to me in certain aspects and I look to them in certain aspects. If they listen to me and I listen to them, we will be a great team.”

The first half started slowly with both teams unable to consistently score. CSUN junior Austin Waggener picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and the Matadors settled for difficult shot attempts.

However, with a little more than 10 minutes left in the first half and the Toros up 16-11, the Matadors got hot. Led by Efevberha, CSUN went on a 20-6 run over the next six minutes, taking the 31-22 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. CSUN’s offensive surge was credited to the defense, as the Matadors switched to a zone which helped cause 20 first-half Dominguez Hills turnovers. CSUN extended the lead to 39-27 as the first half ended.

“In the beginning, we were very anxious and just happy to be on the court,” said sophomore guard/forward Jonathan Heard. “We were playing hard, we just were not playing smart.”

Efevberha scored 16 of his 30 points in the first half. Freshman forward Austen Powers chipped in with six first-half points. CSUN shot 45.7 percent from the field, while the Toros shot 47.8 percent.

CSUDH came out strong in the second half, going on a quick 7-3 run, cutting the Matador lead to eight. However, Toro junior Carlos Rivers picked up his fourth foul with two minutes gone by in the second half, and was forced to sit the bench for the majority of the second half, which halted the Toro comeback attempt.

It did not take CSUN long to take advantage of Rivers watching from the bench. The Matadors went on a 5-0 run, which pushed the lead back to double digits where it would stay for the reminder of the game.

The scoring did pick up, as both teams started to exchange baskets. With 15 minutes left, Heard exploded for 14 points, four assists two steals and one block in the second half, including a monstrous alley-oop dunk from junior Terrell Jones.

With 12:40 left in the game, the Matadors pushed the lead to 21 on a Heard jumper.

The game did have its share of testy moments. With two minutes gone by in the second half, CSUDH junior Murphy Copper received a technical foul for trying to interfere with the Matador huddle during a dead ball.

Then with a little over two minutes left in the game, Heard and Toro freshman Jonathan Toliver received double-technical fouls for shoving each other. However, peace was restored on both occasions and play continued.

“I actually thought this was the turning point in the game,” Braswell said. “I praised the team for that because I thought they tried to get into our heads, but our guys showed a lot of maturity for acting the way they did.”

With a little over two minutes left, Braswell put in freshmen Jeffrey Braswell and Ryan Walton for their first collegiate minutes. Jeffrey Braswell scored two points on a broken-play layup and Walton made two free throws, which concluded the game, as the Matadors won 96-73.

“We struggled early in the game to score, but as I told our guys, the one thing that kept us in the game was our defense,” coach Braswell said. “Even though we missed a lot of easy baskets, I was not disappointed because our effort was great.”

Efevberha and Heard scored in double figures, as well as Powers, who had 10 points, three rebounds and three steals in 21 minutes. Powers has received some valuable minutes with the injury to the Matador’s big man, junior Thomas Shewmake.

“I am learning a lot with Shewmake out,” Powers said. “But while he is out, I am going to step up and work my hardest.”

The Matadors shot 54.5 percent from the field for the game, including a stellar 64.5 percent in the second half. CSUN also shot 90 percent from the foul line, taking 20 free throws and making 18.

The CSUN defense forced 29 turnovers, limiting the Toros to 44 percent from the field and out-rebounded CSUDH 35 to 32.

The Toros were lead by junior Mario Malave, who had 26 points and a game-high 13 rebounds in 27 minutes. Malave was the only Toro to score in double digits. Rivers and sophomore Kevin Crockett had nine points.

The Matadors will now open its regular season on Sunday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m. against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

Shewmake could be ready to play against USC, but Braswell would not say for sure.

The Trojans beat the Toros by 13 in a preseason game two weeks ago.

“Dominguez is a scrappy team that played USC tough and played us tough at the beginning,” Efevberha said. “USC is going to be a tough game for us, but we will prepare for them this week.”

Justin Satzman can be reached at justin.satzman@csun.edu.