Injuries to key players and early foul trouble devastated the CSUN men’s basketball team, as Boise State handed the Matadors their first home loss 76-68 on Dec. 9.
The loss drops the Matadors to 5-4, while the Broncos even their record at 4-4.
Starting center and leading-rebounder Thomas Shewmake was out due to injury and guard Jordan Noblitt sat out because of illness. Shewmake’s inside presence and Noblitt’s shooting ability were sorely missed by the Matadors.
Leading-scorer Calvin Chitwood was limited to only 10 minutes and six points in the game because of foul trouble. Chitwood picked up three fouls in the first five minutes of the game, forcing head coach Bobby Braswell to sit him on the bench for the rest of the first half.
“We’ve got to learn to adjust to the officiating,” Braswell said. “I didn’t think Calvin adjusted really well. If he’s on the floor for only 10 minutes, we’re going to have a tough time winning.”
The disparity in fouls was staggering. The Matadors were called for 35 fouls during the game, while Boise was called for 19. The Broncos shot 40 free throws, compared to 18 for CSUN.
“That’s a lot of free throws for your opponents to shoot at home,” Braswell said. “They weren’t our officials, but that’s just part of it.”
The three-man officiating crew was from Boise State’s Western Athletic Conference. Braswell said that despite the lack of calls in their favor, the Matadors still had a chance to win.
“We had a seven-point lead in the second half,” Braswell said. “We had an opportunity to bury them.
“We shot quite a few airballs at the end in a critical situation down the stretch. If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to make those plays.”
Despite foul trouble, the Matadors shot well in the first half, sinking nearly 52 percent of their field goals, including five-for-six shooting from three-point range. Forward Jonathan Heard had 10 points off the bench, including three consecutive jumpers to give CSUN a 35-34 lead at the end of the half. Heard made his presence felt in Chitwood’s absence, scoring a season-high 24 points in the game, with five rebounds and two assists. Rob Haynes did his part with eight points in the half, off three-for-four shooting.
The Matadors started the second half ice cold, missing their first three shots and committing two turnovers, allowing the Broncos to take a 40-35 lead. Haynes ended the Matador drought, draining a three from the right wing.
The foul disparity continued in the second half. CSUN was called for five fouls in the first five minutes of the half, while Boise had only one. After a 20-minute absence, Chitwood finally returned with 15 minutes left in the first half. He played only three and a half minutes before being whistled for his fourth foul. Boise head coach Greg Graham said the excessive foul calls were due to the Matadors’ aggressive style of defense.
“They get after you so hard,” Graham said. “That’s why they force the most turnovers in the league, but they also give up a lot of free throws. It’s kind of a check and balance.”
Boise started to assert itself inside in the second half with 6-foot-9 forward Matt Nelson. Nelson scored 14 points in the second half and 21 in the game. Without the 6-foot-10 Shewmake, the Broncos dominated the paint with 32 points, compared to 22 for the Matadors.
“We got the ball inside more,” Graham said. “We got the ball to Nellie and Nellie converted.”
Nelson’s proficiency in the paint caused the Matador defense to collapse, resulting in open looks for Boise guards Eric Lane and Coby Karl. Lane had 14 points on five-for-12 shooting, while sharpshooter Karl had 19 points on five-for-seven shooting and went six-for-six from the free-throw line.
Leading three-point shooter Jordan Noblitt’s absence was felt as CSUN’s shooting percentage dropped to 28 percent in the second half, but still managed to hold the lead for most of the half.
The tide turned with about seven minutes left in the game, when Karl swished a deep three-pointer to pull the Broncos to within one at 61-60. After two free throws by Matador guard Terrell Jones, Lane brought the ball up the court and sank a wide-open three, tying the score at 63-63. The Broncos took the lead on a layup by Karl off a Nelson assist with five and a half minutes left and never looked back.
The Matadors had a few opportunities to get back in the game. With three minutes left and the Matadors down 68-72, guard Jason Hill blocked two shots in a row by Boise forward Reggie Larry, creating a CSUN fast break, but forward Jayme Miller missed his jumper in transition.
“I think we let up a little bit and we weren’t as focused as we needed to be,” Jones said. “We’ve got to put a whole 40 minutes together.”
The foul calls that plagued the Matadors all game sealed their fate at the end, as starters Chitwood, Haynes and Miller all fouled out in the final three minutes. The Broncos hit six free throws down the stretch, winning the contest 76-68.
“Our goal was to not lose any games at home,” Miller said. “But we’re going to go back to practice on Monday and take care of business.”
The Matadors return to action at home on Thursday night against The Master’s College at 7:05 p.m. before they embark on a four-game road trip, including games against Washington State, Pacific, Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside.