The odds were against the Matadors (12-12, 8-4 Big West) Saturday night as they entered the Cowan Spectrum to face their ESPNU BracketBusters rival, Idaho, a team that blew out the ones that embarrassed CSUN on Wednesday: UC Irvine.
The Vandals routed UCI, which had beat CSUN 73-51, by 54 points earlier this season.
CSUN did an immensely better job of making the Big West Conference look more respectable, but still lost, 78-75. The Matadors battled back from a second-half 11-point hole and got within one, 76-75, after freshman Matthew Wallace made a 3-pointer with 17 seconds to go. Following two made free throws from Luciano de Souza, CSUN had a chance at the tie, but Rob Haynes’ three didn’t fall.
The Matadors were coming off their first game without Josh Jenkins, their senior guard who led them in assists and was among the leaders in scoring at 10.2 points per game. Jenkins suffered internal injuries in a car crash on Feb. 14 and, while he’s been released from the hospital, will miss the rest of the season.
CSUN looked so overmatched against the Anteaters Wednesday that Head Coach Bobby Braswell said his players should just hit their heads on a wall and lose memory of what took place that night. On Saturday, the Matadors took a step back into the right direction.
‘We showed Northridge pride,’ said CSUN point guard Mark Hill, who scored a season-high 13 points.
Braswell also said he was proud of his team’s effort and fight. What he wasn’t too eager to show off was the Matadors’ defensive stats. CSUN allowed Idaho to shoot 68.4 percent. Vandals guards Marc Hopson and Kashif Watson scored 17 points apiece.
‘Idaho is a great driving team,’ said Hill, one of the few defensive bright spots. He had seven steals.
CSUN shot 43 percent and helped itself stay in the game by making 18 of 20 free throws. Guard Kenny Daniels had 19 points and Haynes scored 13. Three more from Haynes, who was 3-of-8 from three-point line, would have likely sent the game into overtime.’
‘We got the shot we wanted,’ said Hill of the attempt with three seconds left.
That shot was off and delivered the Matadors’ second loss in a row after winning six straight games. CSUN took comfort in the fact it was a non-conference game, meaning they didn’t lose any ground in the Big West standings.
The next one counts. The Matadors host UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday at 7 p.m.