Men’s basketball prepares for huge home game

Justin Satzman

The Cal State Northridge men’s basketball team returned home for the first time since Feb. 4. Since then, the Matadors have played five road games, including yesterday’s game at Pacific. During the road trip, CSUN went 2-2 with wins at UC Davis and UC Riverside. The losses occurred at Cal State Fullerton and Boise State.

What is probably more exciting for the Matadors is that CSUN will hosts the Pacific Tigers Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. on Wells Fargo Court at the Matadome. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Net West 2.

“Anytime you can get some national television exposure for your program it is obviously a good thing,” said head coach Bobby Braswell. “I would really like to see our student section packed and roaring with excitement. I’m calling on all students at Cal State Northridge to come out and cheer us on.”

This will be the 14th meeting between CSUN and Pacific with the Tigers holding a 10-2 lead, including a six-game winning streak. However, the Matadors are 2-2 at home against the Tigers

“Now is the time that everyone must elevate their play,” Braswell said. “It is a time that the freshmen are no longer rookies as they have played 23 collegiate basketball games. We need our shooters to knock down some shots, our rebounders to box out and get some boards and our point guards to run the offense the way they are capable. And we need to get better defensively.”

Pacific is 18-7 overall and 8-2 in the Big West. The Tigers are led by senior Christian Maraker who is averaging 18 points and nine rebounds while shooting 48 percent from the field and 85 percent from the line in 33 minutes.

The Tigers second leading-scorer is senior and Agoura Hills resident Johnny Gray. Gray is averaging 14 points and three assists while shooting 48 percent from the floor, including 43 percent from beyond the arc.

Pacific is led by Bob Thomason, who is in his 18th season as head coach. He has the most wins in school history with 286 and has been named Big West Conference Coach of the Year four times, including last season.

Last season, the Tigers had their best season in school history. Pacific set a school record with 27 wins and an 18-0 Big West Conference mark in addition to 22 straight wins. Pacific also won an NCAA Tournament First Round game for the second straight year.

Entering this season, Pacific had a 31-game conference-winning streak until it was snapped on Jan. 7 at home against UC Riverside.

The Matadors are 10-13 overall with a 3-7 conference record. It has been an up and down season for CSUN. The Matadors started the season with four straight victories, including a win over USC. CSUN, however, has struggled lately, losing five of its last seven games, including their loss in the BracketBuster game to Boise State on Feb. 18.

The Matadors are led by junior Mike Efevberha who is averaging 17 points and four assists in 28 minutes a game. Sophomore Jonathan Heard is the second-leading scorer on the team. Heard is averaging 12 points and three rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field in 27 minutes per game.

Junior center Thomas Shewmake is probable for the Pacific game. He was injured in practice on Feb. 15 after a player dove for a loose ball but landed on the side of his left leg. Shewmake had an MRI on Feb. 20 that revealed only a strain and he returned to practice. Shewmake has also been playing with a broken bone in his left foot for several weeks.

The Matadors are led by Braswell, who has a record of 143-123, is in his tenth season with CSUN. Braswell has guided the Matadors to postseason play in each of his previous nine seasons, reaching the conference tournament championship game on four occasions.

In 2004-05, Cal State Northridge finished the year with an overall record of 18-13 and tied for third in the Big West with a record of 12-6, its best league mark since joining the BWC in 2001. CSUN lost a heartbreaker to Pacific 63-61 on a questionable call in the semifinals of the 2005 Big West Tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Justin Satzman can re reached at