Men’s basketball: Matadors experience season déjà vu in overtime loss at UC Irvine

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Men’s basketball: Matadors experience season déjà vu in overtime loss at UC Irvine

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Alonso Tacanga

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CSUN guard Josh Greene drives to the basket during a game against Fresno State on Feb. 18. The Matadors lost to UC Irvine in overtime Saturday night. Photo credit: Mariela Molina / Photo Editor

IRVINE – To say the 16th season of head coach Bobby Braswell’s career at CSUN has been a struggle would be putting it lightly. Already ineligible to play in the Big West Conference Tournament to start the year, Braswell’s Matadors have taken enough tumbles through 2011-12 to ensure the coach will finish with the fewest single-season wins of his CSUN tenure.

On Saturday night at the Bren Events Center, it seemed like the whole dreadful year had been concentrated and put into one single, miserable game: a 94-85 overtime loss against UC Irvine (11-17, 6-8 Big West).

“Déjà vu all over again, seems like a broken record,” Braswell said.

Some of the revisited season nightmares for Braswell on this night: CSUN struggling offensively (it shot 38.2 percent for the game); turning the ball over at crucial times (like Frankie Eteuati’s consecutive illegal screens as CSUN nursed a nine-point second-half lead); and giving up back-breaking offensive rebounds (like the one forward Adam Folker collected and put back in with 4.3 seconds to go to tie the game and send it into overtime).

The Matadors (7-20, 3-12) were in control for most of the second half and led 77-70 after guard Vinnie McGhee made a long jumper with 7:28 to go in regulation. Then the Matadors began their stream of consecutive misses and turnovers. CSUN did not score another field goal until forward Stephen Maxwell (18 points) laid a miss back in with 13 seconds to go to put his team up 83-81.

Following the basket, Braswell emphatically called a time out.

“One instruction: shot goes up, we got to box out,” Braswell said of the reason for the defensive time out.

UCI guard Daman Starring drove into the paint and missed a floater. The miss was corralled by Folker, who was off on his putback. He got the ball back one more time, though, and laid it up to tie the game.

“We didn’t only give up one offensive rebound, we gave up two offensive rebounds,” Braswell said. “So we didn’t deserve it.”

Still, CSUN had a chance to win it. With 4.1 seconds to go, Braswell ran the same play for guard Josh Greene that he’d drawn up near the end of a 63-61 loss Wednesday against UC Riverside. Against the Highlanders, Greene made the mistake of running towards the inbounder to receive the ball, squandering some time and forcing him into a defensive trap at midcourt. On Saturday, Greene ran away from him, caught the ball beyond halfcourt and pulled up for a game-winner just inside the three-point arc.

The play would have been executed to perfection had Greene not lost grasp of the ball and had it go out of bounds.
“We should have probably gotten a layup out of (the play),” Braswell said. “We didn’t even get a shot up.”

Possession still belonged to the Matadors with 1.2 seconds to go, but Maxwell’s shot falling backwards off a Greene lob bounced off the side of the rim.

In overtime, Braswell relived another nightmare. Just like against Fresno State on a BracketBuster game on Feb. 18, CSUN went record-breaking cold. Against the Bulldogs, CSUN shot 2-for-22 (9.1 percent) in the second half of a 62-49 loss. Against the Anteaters in the extra five minutes, CSUN made only one of 14 field goal attempts (7.1 percent) as UCI outscored it 11-2.

Had it not been for guard Stephan Hicks (24 points, nine rebounds) catching a Greene airball in midair and laying it in with two seconds to go, the Matadors would have missed every one of their overtime shots. UCI, which shot 55.6 for the game, was led by Folker, who had six of his career-high 28 points in OT.

Braswell said his team got down on itself after allowing the Anteaters to rally back to send the game into overtime.

“It comes from a lack of confidence, doubting yourself, not believing in yourself,” he said. “There’s no way we should go on a five-minute stretch and not score a basket.”

In this forgetful season, there’s been more than enough of those stretches for the Matadors. Braswell already knew his team wasn’t going to be in the postseason this year, but the irony in this is that, as of Saturday night – after UC Davis beat Fullerton – CSUN would be missing the tournament anyway since it’s in ninth place in the Big West standings with one game to go.

It doesn’t matter. All Braswell wants out of this year is to have his young team gain experience for the future. But not even that seems to happening at the moment.

“We seem to be struggling learning the lessons,” Braswell said.