Fullerton — The Northridge men’s basketball team stormed into California State University, Fullerton Thursday, and came out with a wire-to-wire victory, overpowering a smaller Titans team 92-86.
Missing their leading scorer, sophomore guard Stephan Hicks due to an injury, the Matadors wouldn’t ruin a celebration for head coach Bobby Braswell. Braswell, in his 16th season for Northridge, coached his 500th game, earning career victory 248 at CSUN.
“It’s a really special night,” Braswell said. “I completely lost track of that until the officials said something to me before the game tonight, ‘congratulations.’ I’m more excited about what our guys did tonight, I’m more excited about how our guys came out here without our leading scorer, Stephan Hicks. (He) didn’t even make the trip because of an injury.”
Starting out quick in an up-tempo game, the Matadors jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, shutting down the Titans vaunted offense for the first three minutes of the game.
Once staked to that four point lead, the Matadors would never trail in the game, although Fullerton would tie the game at 4-4 and 9-9.
Keeping the Titans out of the paint, forcing them to take long-range jumpers and three-pointers kept the Matadors in the lead.
Northridge held the Titans to 18 percent three-point shooting and 32 percent overall shooting in the first half.
“Our coach tells us that if we stop the drive then their three-point percentage is going to drop, because they won’t have enough cushion to shoot,” said freshman forward Tre Hale-Edmerson, who scored 17 points along with eight rebounds.
The Matadors went on an 11-0 run halfway through the first half that lasted three minutes, building their lead to 13 points. CSUN would eventually lead by 14 before the end of the half, and go into halftime leading by 10.
Coming out for the second half, the Titans showed new life, forcing the Matadors to change up their approach as the Titans switched to a zone defense.
“They really couldn’t guard us man-to-man because we were attacking them and getting them in foul trouble,” said junior guard Josh Greene. “They went to the zone, so that kind of slowed us down a bit, but we made adjustments as well. We just started pounding it in, driving and attacking.”
Greene led the Matadors with 24 points, recording one of the Matadors two double-double’s with 10 rebounds.
Unable to drive to the basket against the zone, Northridge started putting up long-range jumpers and three-pointers, and were unable to get many to fall. CSUN shot 37.5 percent from behind the arc in the second half, and 27 percent for the game, going 3-11.
The Titans mounted a comeback during the first 12 minutes of the second half, coming within three points of the lead. Northridge responded by extending their lead to 13 with three minutes left, putting the game out of Fullerton’s reach.
The Matadors outrebounded Fullerton 47-27, helping them overcome their 21 turnovers.
“The way we played from beginning to end, I’m just proud of them,” Braswell said. “Great effort, very competitive, we defended well, really well, especially in the first half. They got going in the second, but it was just a great overall team effort. Five guys in double figures, it was a great team win.”