This one counts

Alonso Tacanga

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Chances are they won’t continue the trend. After all, holding any team that somewhat knows its way around a basketball court to 20 percent shooting from the field is as complicated as it gets. Chances are they’ll allow their first regular-season opponent, Cal Lutheran, to shoot better than that.

Chances are it will still be another blowout.

The next time the Matadors (0-0) come out to the floor, they’ll do so with a different feeling. The season has officially started. There’s no more practice games. Stats will start being recorded. The rival of turn, though, is yet another non-Division I one: The Cal Lutheran Kingsmen.

‘I don’t know anything about them,’ said guard Deon Tresvant, who didn’t know who the ‘Kingsmen’ were when asked about them. ‘All I know is it’s the first time we’re playing them. It’s the first time I actually hear about this team. That’s all I know.’

With a feeling of not wanting to write anyone off, CSUN faces the NCAA-Division III-member Kingsmen Friday at 7:05 p.m. at the Matadome. Last season, these Kingsmen won their league, the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. It’s the same league from which La Verne proceeds. The Leopards, as recalled, visited Northridge Nov. 3 for the Matadors’ first exhibition game of the season. They came out with an 82-49 whooping while being held to 29 percent shooting.

CSUN followed up the defensive feat with a better one Saturday, allowing only 20 percent of Carroll College’s shots to go down.

‘We’ve improved and we (keep) improving,’ said Head Coach Bobby Braswell. ‘We’re getting better. We’re still not where we need to be, but our defense is tightening up. It’s getting better’

Only allowing a basket for every five shots is indeed better. But Braswell and Northridge understand that it’s one thing to do it against Carroll and it’s another to achieve that against the likes of, say Stanford ‘- whom the Matadors face Tuesday at Stanford. Not only that, but CSUN committed 24 turnovers that night. Maybe that was one of the reasons for which Braswell had his team in practice an hour past the scheduled time Wednesday.

‘Turnovers is a big issue with us right now,’ said Braswell. ‘We’ve been stressing that in practice and I’ve explained to our guys that playing Carroll is one thing – when you turn the ball over 24 times – but you play teams that are better and you turn the ball over like that, you’re going to lose.’

‘You can’t afford to give good basketball teams 24 extra possessions.’

Cal Lutheran fits in that category. While they’re two divisions away from Northridge, the Kingsmen racked up 21 wins in 2007-08. CSUN is not very interested in what they will do, though. The Matadors care more about what they can accomplish once they fix their bugaboos. Josh Jenkins, their point guard, was worried after CSUN had a hard time scoring during Saturday’s first half, but said that once they ‘put the defense and the offense together’ it’ll be a tough combination to beat.

The Kingsmen are not big at all, but their tallest player is also their most skilled. Junior Andy Meier, a 6-foot-7 forward, led Cal Lutheran in scoring in 2007-08 at 14.3 points per game and earned All-SCIAC First-Team honors. He was also their best rebounder and the only one to hit double figures in points in their last game, a 54-44 loss in the SCIAC Tournament Semifinals. There’s only two other Kingsmen who – only literally – stand just as tall as Meier.

The Matadors’ tallest player, center Xavier Crawford, is seven feet tall. They can throw the ball inside all night long.

‘It’s not about winning (at this point) as much as it is about us getting better,’ said Braswell.
Chances are they’ll do both.