Matadors suffer heartbreaking loss at home

Ivan Yeo

So close, yet so far.

With 10 seconds remaining in the CSUN Matador men’s basketball team’s important showdown with the Cal State Fullerton Titans, the Matadors found themselves trailing 75-72, but had the ball and one last shot to force overtime.

Sophomore guard Jason Hill took the ball the length of the court and passed it off to Rob Haynes, who immediately ran into a swarm of Titan defenders.

Haynes evaded the pressure and launched a three-pointer in front of the Matador bench that somehow swished perfectly through the net, and moreover, a whistle had sounded during the play, brining the possibility that Haynes might be heading to the free-throw line with a chance to win the game.

However, the referees waived off the three-pointer, saying that Haynes was fouled before he got the shot off, meaning instead of a potential four-point play that could have given Northridge a one-point lead with 1.1 seconds left, Haynes was left to go to the free-throw line to shoot a pair.

Haynes split the free-throws, and the Titans went long on the inbounds pass to run out the remaining second and escape the Matadome with a nail-biting 75-73 win.

“I didn’t get fouled,” Haynes said. “I just shot it, and it went in, and if I did get fouled, I don’t know why I would’ve shot two free throws.”

The play for Haynes was drawn up ahead of time. The Matadors did a great job of executing the coach’s play.

“We got what we wanted,” head coach Bobby Braswell said. “We ran the play, we drew it up for Robby and he came off the screen, caught it, knocked down a three and the whistle was blown and I was thinking it was an and-one it was a four point play.”

The call from the referees left many in the Matadome stunned, including Braswell.

“It caught me off guard,” Braswell said of the call. “It caught everyone off guard.”

The game was a slugfest in itself, as both teams answered each other’s scoring runs with runs of their own and in the game’s final moments, traded big shots down the stretch. Fullerton led by as many as 15 points in the second half and led 57-44 with 9:58 left until Northridge caught fire, going on a 14-0 run to take a 58-57 lead on a Heard layup with 4:15 to go in the game.

Fullerton had gone six minutes without a field goal, but that drought was broken when Fran Robinson tip-dunked a Justin Burns miss to wrestle the lead back to the Titans. Haynes gave the Matadors the lead back when he rebounded his own miss and scored on a layup.

Marcus Crenshaw though came up huge for the Titans, as he nailed two deep three-pointers on Fullerton’s next two possessions to keep the Titans in control. Crenshaw’s first three-ball at 3:14 put the Titans back ahead 62-60, then after Jason Hill scored on a jumper with 2:55 to tie the game, Crenshaw nailed another deep three seven seconds later to break the deadlock and give Fullerton a lead they never relinquished.

Senior center Thomas Shewmake had a career night against the Titans, as he scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Shewmake also played 38 minutes and didn’t commit a single foul. Junior forward Jonathan Heard scored 14 points off the bench and Haynes scored 10 points.

“He played like a warrior,” Braswell said.

Shewmake also received a little motivation from an unlikely source, as the Fullerton fans who made the trek from Orange County to the San Fernando Valley to root on their Titans heckled him loudly for most of the night. Apparently, all that did was wake up a sleeping giant.

“I like that,” Shewmake said of the Fullerton crowd heckling him. “I like it when got competition like that, we’ve got people fired up and amped up and it was the same when we went there (to Fullerton), so I like that, and if there’s any future crowds out there, they might not want to do that,”

Fullerton was led by standout point guard Bobby Brown, as he scored 22 points, including six free-throws inside the final two minutes to preserve the Titan lead. Scott Cutley scored 16 points, Crenshaw finished with 11 points and Burns added 10.

There were other positives for the Matadors, as it out-rebounded the titans 50-33 and shot 46.3 percent from the field compared to Fullerton’s 37.9 percent.

The first half saw both teams trade scoring runs throughout. Fullerton led 14-8 at 12:53 until CSUN scored eight in a row, taking a 16-14 lead on a put-back layup by Terrell Jones.

Fullerton though answered right back, scoring 11 in a row to take a 25-16 lead. The Matadors didn’t let the Titans (18-5, 8-3) get any further and ended up trailing 33-27 at the half.

The Matadors (11-13, 4-7) will take a break from Big West Conference action this week to host future conference member UC Davis at the Matadome on Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Matadors will then host Cleveland State this coming Saturday in its Bracket Buster matchup.