Matadors have new weapon for visiting Fullerton

Alonso Tacanga

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They’re down a leading scorer, their starting point guard can’t buy a bucket ‘- he admitted so himself ‘- and, in a span of 20 days, they’ve gone from looking unbeatable, to courageous, and, ultimately, to vulnerable.

They, the Matadors men’s basketball team (6-9, 3-2 Big West), also just got a much-needed boost in the form of a 5-foot-11 transfer at the same time they dropped a road game against the top team in the Big West Conference, which meant a fall to a four-way tie for second place in the league.

But even though Deon Tresvant (13.3 ppg) isn’t playing and Josh Jenkins has only shot 9-of-46 in the past four games, the Matadors can’t be too surprised at the roller coaster (although some events were more unforeseeable than others). Head Coach Bobby Braswell has said it throughout the 2008-09 campaign that started with an overwhelming favoritism: The Big West ‘is going to be crazy.’

The wild conference ride started in Fullerton two days before the end of 2008. CSUN never looked more dominant as it thrashed the defending league champion Titans, 90-64, in their home court. Two weeks later, already without Tresvant, it needed a spirited second-half lockdown to overcome UC Riverside and place itself in more calm waters.

The current shook up a bit on Saturday as league-leading Long Beach State stopped the Matadors’ bid to catch up to it by beating them 74-68. Jenkins played a season-low 18 minutes at the same time as his new backup, junior point guard Mark Hill, made his debut with CSUN and helped lead a late charge that eventually fell short, but gave the team a new window: Hill’s quickness.

Cal State Fullerton (8-10, 2-4) will visit The Matadome tonight with revenge in their heads. They’re not the team that represented the Big West in the NCAA Tournament in 2008 anymore, but they still have a few weapons (like league leading-scorer Josh Akognon) and the conference’s best offense.

Date: Tonight
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: The Matadome, Northridge
Series: Titans lead 32-25
Last meeting: CSUN 90 @ Fullerton 64, Dec. 29, 2008

Interesting fact: In their latest match, the Matadors handed Fullerton its worst home loss in nearly seven years. CSUN shot 60 percent from the floor en route to a 26-point win.

Matador to watch:
Mark Hill, guard, junior

Hill arrived from Tulsa last year but could not play due to eligibility rules. That was until the Matadors’ last outing at Long Beach State, where the junior stepped in as point guard Josh Jenkins’ backup. Hill was impressive in crunch time and buried three second-half 3-pointers to finish with an 11-point, three-assist debut. CSUN ended up losing to the 49ers, 74-68, but won itself a quick, hungry guard. The junior will be playing in his first home game of the season.

Titan to watch:
Josh Akognon, guard, senior

Having already faced the likes of Manu Ginobili and Dirk Nowtizki in his career, very little will make Akognon’s back hair stand up. The senior, who played against the aforementioned stars while representing Nigeria in the 2006 FIBA World Championship, averaged 20.2 points per game while leading his Titans to the NCAA Tournament last season. He’s followed up on that by, as of his last game, being the seventh-highest scorer in the nation. Akognon’s averaging 23.4 ppg.

What did he say?
Bobby Braswell, Head Coach
On Mark Hill’s debut as a Matador Saturday at Long Beach State:

‘He made some great decisions. He made some great passes and hit a couple of big three’s, obviously. It’s going to be good to have a true backup point guard. It’s something we haven’t had all year.’