It was Red Rally Night at the Matadome as the CSUN Matador men’s basketball team hosted the UC Riverside Highlanders this past Thursday.
And when it was all said and done, it was the Highlanders who were left feeling a little red, particularly its centers and power forwards, as the Matadors went to a relentless inside attack and the end result was an 89-69 win that snapped its four-game losing streak.
“Tonight, we made the right step in the right direction,” junior forward Calvin Chitwood said. “We all played together.”
With Riverside (5-17, 1-8) utilizing a four and sometimes five-guard lineup, CSUN (11-12, 4-6) looked to pound the ball inside, and it worked, as the Matadors outscored the Highlanders 54-12 in the paint and also blocked seven shots. Northridge also grabbed 44 rebounds.
“Before the game, (head) coach (Bobby Braswell) told us ‘just pound it, pound it, pound it inside, keep it on them,'” Chitwood said. “That’s what we tried to do tonight and we did it pretty well.”
Chitwood led the Matadors’ inside attack, as he scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Fellow junior forward Jayme Miller had his best game of the season by far, as he also scored 16 points. Sophomore Rob Haynes also had a big night, as he scored 13 points, 12 of them coming on 4 of 5 shooting from the three-point line. Junior forward Jonathan Heard had 12 points and sophomore Jason Hill also scored 10.
The Matadors came out with all of their energy at the start of the game. Riverside was able to keep pace with the Matadors, as a Charles Jim-George three-ball made it a 16-14 CSUN lead, but the Matadors soon caught fire. Heard and Shewmake scored inside to make it a 20-14 CSUN lead. CSUN then forced a turnover and Heard threw a lob pass to Jayme Miller, who finished with a thunderous one-handed dunk that got the Matador Red Rally section pumped up.
“We were just having fun, doing what we do, just playing,” Miller said. “We just picked things up, we’re just going to play how we play, how we know we’re going to play, and then we’ll be fine.”
Miller scored again at the 9:29 mark and a Shewmake jumper at the top of the key capped off a 10-0 run that gave CSUN a 26-14 lead. Riverside’s Chris Johnson stopped the run with a three, but Haynes answered with a three of his own on the Matadors’ ensuing possession and two Heard free-throws followed by a Shewmake score gave CSUN a 33-17 lead, its biggest of the half. The Matadors’ size was evident in the first half, as it outscored the Highlanders 26-4 in the paint.
“We just didn’t think they could guard us if we pounded the ball inside,” Braswell said.
Haynes started the second half with a three in front of the Matador bench to make a 14-point game, but Riverside started to show some life. Back-to-back threes by Johnson and Jim-George cut the lead under double digits at 44-36 at 17:56.
Riverside stayed with CSUN for the next four minutes. A three by Henrik Thomsen at 13:39 sliced the Matador lead to 55-49, but that was the closest the Highlanders got, as the Matadors quickly answered Riverside’s surge with nine points in a row to get the lead to 64-49 at 10:16.
The Highlanders tried to keep pace shortly thereafter, but could never get the Northridge lead under double-digits, as a variety of Matadors converted several key baskets to silence several Riverside threats. CSUN actually shot 18-29 (62 percent) from the field in the second half.
The Matadors overcame the effort of Riverside star Larry Cunningham, who scored 24 points on 8-16 shooting from the field. Chris Johnson was also a force for the Matadors, as he scored 19 points. The Matadors overcame Cunningham and Johnson’s efforts by shooting a collective 56 percent from the field. Northridge’s defense also was a factor, as it forced 16 Riverside turnovers, 12 in the first half.
“We just mixed our defenses up,” Braswell said. “We put our 1-3-1 halfcourt trap on them and that really gave them some problems.”
The Matadors hosted the Cal State Fullerton Titans this past Saturday. Information regarding that game will be available in the next edition of the Daily Sundial.