Special to the Daily Sundial
In their first game at the Matadome since beginning the 2006 spring semester, the Matadors, in front of 1,293 fans, looked like a team playing together for the first time, losing in a one-sided affair to the 49ers of Long Beach State 101-80, Feb. 2.
The 101 points allowed by CSUN was the first time the Matadors yielded 100 points or more at home since March of 1991 – a span of 172 games.
“This was one of the worst games I have ever been involved with,” said head coach Bobby Braswell. “I thought we would have come out with a lot more fire and intensity than we did.”
The defeat dropped the Matadors to a struggling 2-5 league record (8-10 overall), which is good for sixth place in the eight-team Big West Conference.
The win moved the 49ers (10-9, 5-3) into sole possession of the third spot in the conference, behind only Pacific and the Anteaters of UC Irvine, who lost their first conference to Pacific on Feb.2.
For the first six minutes of the game, the Matadors looked to pace the 49ers stride for stride, grabbing their only lead of the game on a layup by sophomore guard Jonathan Heard, giving CSUN the 12-11 advantage.
The lead, however, would not last, as the 49ers quickly pulled ahead on mid-range jump shot by Dominique Ricks.
As Long Beach State began to pull away, Heard did his part to keep the Matadors close. He collected a pass from senior point guard Bakari Altheimer in the paint and threw down a colossal dunk, cutting the Long Beach lead to 25-18.
But without consistent offensive support, the 49ers’ efforts to pull away heading into halftime seemed inevitable.
Led by senior guard Jibril Hodges, son of the two-time NBA champion Craig Hodges, who was in attendance, Long Beach State was able to increase its first half lead to 49-29 going into the break.
Hodges recorded 16 first half points to lead all scores, shooting 5 of 7 from the field.
The Matadors, however, were unable to rely on star guard Mike Efevberha, who sat all but six minutes of the first half plagued by foul trouble. Efevberha was blanked by the 49er defense in the first half, shooting 0 for 5 from the field.
As a team, the Matadors shot a dismal 33 percent from the field compared to the 49ers’ 55 percent in the first half.
The Matadors started the second half in a 1-3-1 zone defense, with hopes of containing Long Beach’s offensive threats. But Hodges continued his solid shooting performance, nailing his first attempt, a long range three-pointer, stretching the margin to 23 points.
On the ensuing play, Heard’s quick first step broke down the Long Beach defense, allowing him an open path to the hoop for a thunderous dunk.
Long Beach, however, would remain in control, opening up a 19-9 run to start the second half. CSUN’s sloppy play and 23 turnovers helped secure the 49ers season sweep of the Matadors, winning by 21 points.
“This was one of those games when nothing worked out for us,” Braswell said. “But you have to give Long Beach credit. They hit big shots.”
In fact, the 49ers made 55 percent of their shots for the game, including 44 percent from behind the three-point line. The team also managed to make 21 of 25 from the free throw line.
“I felt terrible for our fans,” Braswell said. “We had such a great crowd and yet we played without a sense of urgency.”
For the Matadors, Heard recorded his second double-double of the season in bittersweet fashion, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Sophomore Calvin Chitwood chipped in 14 points, while junior Terrell Jones added 11.
Efevberha finished the night shooting just 3 for 11 from the field, scoring nine points in a foul-ridden 17 minutes of play.
“It was heartbreaking to sit on the bench and watch our team getting beaten and dunked on,” Efevberha said.
Averaging better than 19 points per game, Efevberha has now scored less than his average in six of the past seven games. Efevberha said he attributes his decline in scoring to the updated style of play implemented by the coaching staff.
“In the beginning of the season lots of the plays were designed specifically for me,” Efevberha said. “Now I am looking to pass and find my teammates more.”
Efevberha went on to say that he is trying to be more conscious of his shot selection.
Junior Thomas Shewmake, who has been battling a foot injury, aggravated it early in the first half, sidelining the 6-foot-10 center for the rest of the game. In just 18 minutes, however, Shewmake contributed nine points and seven boards.
“With his injury, Shewmake is obviously limited,” Braswell said. “But he is warrior.”
Freshman guard Rob Haynes scored six points, while Altheimer led the Matadors with six assists.
For the 49ers, Hodges recorded a career-high 27 points, including 6 of 9 from behind the three-point line. Kejuan Johnson also scored a career-high 20 points to go along with six assists. Point guard Kevin Houston was an assist shy of a double-double, as he added 13 points.
The Matadors’ next opponent is the league-leading Anteaters of UC Irvine. It will be the first time Efevberha will be playing against his old team at the Matadome.
In the last meeting with the Anteaters on Jan. 13, Efevberha was nine points off his season average, finishing with 10 points. The Matadors lost the game 76-62.
Matt Osias can be reached at email@example.com.