Defend yourself

Alonso Tacanga

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While CSUN Head Coach Bobby Braswell was pleased with his team for finding a way to fight back from what seemed to be heading towards a second consecutive blowout defeat in Idaho on Saturday, he wasn’t expected to walk into the Matadors’ next practice flashing an ear-to-ear smile.

CSUN was a Rob Haynes’ 3-pointer away from playing overtime after trailing by 11 points in the second half of their ESPNU BracketBusters game against the Vandals. CSUN lost that one, 78-75, and allowed Idaho to shoot 68.4 percent from the field.

Those who know Braswell know those kind of numbers are more likely to make him shed a tear than the ending of Terminator 2.

In the past, whenever Braswell’s felt those emotions, he’s usually provided himself a tissue in the form of a focus-grabbing practice. The first one was Monday

‘Oh my god, it was crazy,’ said guard Rodrigue Mels, who survived the mix of conditioning defensive drills.

But CSUN knows that what’s really insane is to think it can even be close in a game where the opponent shoots almost 70 percent. With UC Santa Barbara coming to the Matadome tonight (7 p.m.), the Matadors are looking to do something that will likely happen just by default: defending better.

‘These past two games, we’ve lost our focus defensively,’ Braswell said. ‘Whenever you allow your opponent to shoot 70 percent, you’re going to have a tough time.’

Before CSUN lost at Idaho, the Matadors dropped another game, 73-51, at UC Irvine. CSUN limited the Anteaters to 42 percent shooting overall, but UCI made 56 percent of its 3-pointers.

That defeat dropped the Matadors into a tie with Long Beach State (13-12, 8-4) for first place in the Big West Conference. The 49ers visit the Matadome next on Saturday.

For now, though, all CSUN’s worried about is UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos (12-13, 5-7) are eighth in the conference, but have won four games in a row. That includes a road win at UC Irvine.

Gauchos forward Chris Devine has been particularly special during the winning streak. He’s averaging 23.5 points per game in the four wins, carrying one of the worst offenses in the conference (65.5 ppg).

The Matadors meanwhile don’t care about who scores. They care about who stops. That was almost no one the last time around. It’s back to conference play again and CSUN expects to regain the kind of defensive tenacity that’s allowed it to lead the Big West.
It all starts at practice.

‘I heard practice was very tough, straight to defense. Nothing but defense,’ said CSUN forward Tremaine Townsend, who missed Monday’s exercises due to sickness.

The Matadors are on a two-game losing streak. They still haven’t been able to win one for Josh Jenkins, their teammate who’ll miss the rest of the season while recovering from the injuries a car crash caused him. Some players said Jenkins might be able to attend tonight’s game at the Matadome.

‘That’d be a great boost,’ Townsend said of the possibility of seeing his teammate.

If Jenkins is there, then perhaps CSUN can present the senior with two things he’s passionate about: winning and defense.