Matadors vs. Stanford

Alonso Tacanga

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It’s a match-up 15 years in the making.

It’s one that could probably wait a few more weeks. But ready or not, here is Stanford.

Eight days shy of the 15th anniversary of the last time CSUN played Stanford, the Matadors are again in the north of California to take on the Pacific 10 Conference member.

Northridge lost to the Cardinal 89-53 in 1993 and could find itself on the short end of the non-conference game again tonight at Maples Pavilion if it doesn’t get better in a hurry.

‘We’re not as good as we think we are at this point,’ CSUN Head Coach Bobby Braswell said after his team’s 73-62 season-opening win against Cal Lutheran Friday.

‘That’s probably the biggest thing. This basketball team thinks they’re a lot better than they are. They think that they can just go out on the floor and play and good things are going to happen.’

The Matadors won the opener at home but left the court dissatisfied. True, they were without starting center Tremaine Townsend (ankle) and starting guard Deon Tresvant went through what he referred to as ‘one of those nights’ ‘- shooting 1-for-11 from the field ‘- but, in Cal Lutheran, they had a Division III squad taking it to them on their own Dome. The Kingsmen led to start the second half before reserve Tony Osunsanmi got in the game to will the Matadors ahead with, in Braswell’s words, ‘the biggest heart in the world.’

Osunsanmi scored only seven points but was hard-nosed defensively and used all of his 6-foot-4 frame to grab eight offensive rebounds. Cal Lutheran eventually folded. Credit to the forward, but that’s likely not going to be enough against Stanford.

‘We can’t allow ourselves to, mentally and physically, have letdowns like (Friday’s) coming into Stanford,’ Tresvant said.

The Cardinal represent the first true test of the young season for the Matadors, but certainly not the toughest.? Stanford was picked to finish ninth in its 10-team conference in comparison to CSUN, who was tops in just about every preseason poll out there.

orthridge doesn’t care about rankings, though ‘- at least Braswell doesn’t. They know it’s a Pac-10 team and that alone makes the Cardinal a formidable opponent.

Last season, the Matadors visited Washington ‘- also from the Pac-10. The Huskies handled CSUN and ran away with an 80-66 win. Washington was predicted to finish in a mere 8th place then. The prediction came true; meaning that one of the bottom feeders of the Pac-10 knocked aside the 2007-08 co-champion of the Big West Conference.

Those are all facts, but irrelevant ones. The Matadors were not the team they ended up becoming. But it’s the same case now. CSUN is not in the shape it hopes to accomplish by the time conference play rolls around. That can be killer on the road.

‘We’re just not a very good basketball team right now,’ Braswell said Friday. ‘We’re obviously not at midseason form or even close to that.’

Stanford is just the beginning of a six-game road string for the Matadors. They’ll also be in Bakersfield, New Mexico, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The last one is certainly closer but it’s against the Pac-10 preseason favorite, No. 4 UCLA.

For now it’s Stanford though. The Cardinal went all the way into the Sweet 16 in last season’s NCAA Tournament thanks in big part to twin brother forwards Brook and Robin Lopez. The NBA draft came a couple of months after and they were gone. Stanford was left with forward Lawrence Hill and guard Anthony Goods to carry the scoring load in 2008-00.

It worked in their first game. Hill had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Goods scored 19 to help the Cardinal to a 75-67 win at Yale.

It will be Stanford’s home opener.

‘It’s a big game not only for Northridge, but also for the Big West,’ said point guard Josh Jenkins, who had 16 points Friday. ‘We’re representing the Big West, showing that we can play with any team out there, with any major school. It’s a lot (of responsibility) on our shoulders.’

Braswell isn’t as worried about making a name for the conference as he is about improving. He said conference season is the most important part of the schedule. This is just preparation.

He has little clue about how this one’s going to go, but he knows what he’ll do if CSUN pulls another Cal Lutheran.

‘I don’t know. We’ll see,’ Braswell said when asked about the match-up. ‘We will show up, do our jobs as coaches and we’re going to demand these guys play a certain way. If they don’t play a certain way, certain guys are going to find themselves on the bench, not playing.’

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. It’s for the Big West, and for time on the court.

What did he say?
‘We’re not as good as we think we are at this point. That’s probably the biggest thing. This basketball team thinks they’re a lot better than they are. They think that they can just go out on the floor and play and good things are going to happen.’

Bobby Braswell, CSUN Head Coach

Date: Tonight
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Place: Maple Pavilion, Stanford
Series: Stanford leads 3-0
Last Meeting: CSUN 58 @ Stanford 89 (Nov. 26, 1993)

Follow the live blog of the game at The Matador Score.