Carroll College has one heck of a team. It’s won eight straight conference championships and five of the last six National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national titles. They’re a perfect 10-0 this season and ranked No. 1. They’d be a tough exhibition match-up for the Matadors by all means, except for one small problem.
Those accolades and statistics are all for football.
So instead of a football showdown, something CSUN couldn’t host anyways for lack of a team, the school’s modest men’s basketball squad (2-0) will take a shot at making the state of Montana proud. The Fighting Saints will fly over a thousand miles south to face a Big West Conference preseason favorite who already destroyed another non-Division I team Tuesday. It all goes down Saturday at the Matadome. Tip-off is at 7:05 p.m.
The Matadors beat La Verne, a Division III team, 82-49 earlier this week in their first exhibition game of the season. Despite holding them to under-30 percent shooting from the field and outrebounding the Leopards by more than 30, CSUN Head Coach Bobby Braswell wasn’t all that happy with his team’s performance. Turnovers inside the paint was one of his main worries.
‘We mishandled a lot of balls inside,’ he said. ‘We got to get better. We got to grab the basketball and we got to be stronger and tougher. We challenge our post guys. If you expect our guards to throw the ball down there we got to be tougher.’
Josh Jenkins, CSUN’s starting point guard and last season’s Big West assists leader echoed his coach’s feelings. He was even a bit harsher.
‘We played poorly. We didn’t really execute, given that it was a Division III-team and pressure wasn’t as rough as it’s going to be during times in our season,’ he said. ‘We executed poorly.’
It might seem silly to talk that way after a 30-plus point thrashing, but standards have gone as high as expectations for this Matador team. An all-around conference favorite for this season, CSUN was a defensive juggernaut in the Big West in 2007-08 and Braswell wants to keep that up, if not better it. Carroll College, who plays in the Frontier Conference of the NAIA, offers a new chance at getting the Matadors’ basket-guarding skills to test in a game that won’t count record-wise.
Under Braswell, one can’t fall asleep, though. Even for a mere exhibition game. Players that have been in Northridge for more than just this season know it. Jenkins, in his second year at CSUN, was the first to admit the Matadors didn’t play well against La Verne. Tremaine Townsend, who’s been a Matador since 2007 and had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the game, also knew his coach wasn’t going to be satisfied.
‘Northridge defense is what we focus on and there were some missing pieces that we didn’t get done,’ he said.
The Saints are coming off a thrilling 58-56 win against Eastern Washington. They want to make the long trip a worthy one. The Matadors on their part just want to get good enough to play ‘Northridge defense’ by the time the regular season rolls along.
‘We’re not all the way there, where we should be,’ Townsend said. ‘But by Saturday and the few games coming, we’ll get where we need to be.’