The Matadome isn’t exactly your typical state-of-the-art arena, but it sure is going to feel like a million bucks to some homesick, down-kicked Matadors tonight.
And it’s because its modest, 1,600-seat home court is where CSUN last saw a win. That was almost a month ago and against a Division-III rival. After that, Northridge packed its bags, visited six different venues and came out a loser from all of them.
It’s home-sweet-home time for the Matadors, though. They face Denver tonight.
CSUN’s six-game road trip was a disaster. They were close in only two of the games (at Bakersfield Nov. 21 and at Drexel Dec. 1) and were blown out in the rest. The last one was a visit to No. 16 UCLA on Sunday. The Matadors were outplayed, out-shot and out-hustled in the first half. They woke up in the second 20 minutes, but by then it was too late for anything but trying to learn a lesson. The Bruins ended up winning comfortably, 85-67.
But CSUN Head Coach Bobby Braswell said he wasn’t overly disappointed with the accomplished during the trip, one that hit its lowest point when the Matadors lost to the Roadrunners 67-65 due to what the coach defined as lack of effort. Braswell now feels his team’s execution is better, as is its fight.
And in comes Denver, which ‘- along with a heavy dose of a home crowd – is just what the doctor ordered for the Matadors. The Pioneers (1-5) got its lone win of the season Friday in dramatic fashion, with guard Kyle Lewis hitting a game-winning 15-foot jumper with two seconds left in regulation. They’re a young team. Their most-experienced players at the level are a couple of juniors (guards Tom Chott and Nate Rohnert).
The Matadors know they aren’t in position to overlook anyone, though. Many of their fans will gather to support them for one last time before heading into winter break. They don’t want to disappoint.
Date: Tonight Time: 7:05 p.m. Where: The Matadome, Northridge Series: This will be their first-ever meeting Interesting Fact: Gregg Popovich, a four-time NBA champion as the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, obtained a master’s degree in Physical Education and Sports Sciences from Denver.
Matador to watch: Tremaine Townsend, senior, center Townsend looked out of it to start the game at UCLA and even airballed’ his first two field goal attempts ‘- something that drew a popular chant from the Pauley Pavilion crowd. The center settled down soon, though, and missed little thereafter. Townsend made 10 of 15 shots and led all scorers with 23 points in the losing effort. He also managed to stay out of foul trouble, something he’s struggled with this season. Against a bunch of young Pioneers, the senior needs to match the effort, lead by example and end the losing streak.
Pioneer to watch: Nate Rohnert, junior, guard With two seasons under his belt (both with Denver), Rohnert is the most experienced Pioneer on the squad. The 6-foot-5 guard out of Parker, Colo. is the team’s leading scorer at 15.3 ppg and also a deadly three-point shooter, with an average of over 46 percent. The only problem is that, even though the guy is young, he’s got to be getting tired. The junior is averaging 37.5 minutes on the court per game. That gives him about two minutes to rest per contest. Those Denver guys sure got some lungs.
What did he say? Bobby Braswell, CSUN Head Coach On the road trip and the team’s reaction to it: ‘In my whole tenure here, we’ve never been through a stretch like this where we had to play this many road games in a row. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get any home games, but our hope is that it made us tougher and stronger for (the Big West Conference schedule), and we’ll find that out soon.’