After the CSUN men’s basketball team came away with an impressive 20-point victory against Vanguard University on Nov. 18, the Matadors appeared ready to go toe-to-toe with their Pac-12 opponent, the University of Southern California Trojans on Monday night.
However, that wasn’t the case, as the Matadors looked like deer in the headlights, getting blown-out, 96-61 at the Galen Center.
“I just think they were better, more powerful, and bigger and deeper,” said CSUN men’s basketball head coach Reggie Theus, regarding USC.
Early on though, it appeared the Matadors were in a comfort zone of sorts as they jumped out to a 5-4 lead by the 17:35 mark of the first half.
But after snagging the lead, CSUN had trouble holding onto the ball, committing three turnovers in the first four minutes.
Difficulty protecting the ball and poor defensive rotations by the Matadors would then allow the Trojans to grab a firm grip on the game.
“Our margin of error is almost zero,” said Theus. “We can’t play that way, then all of a sudden make a couple mistakes. When you’re playing with four freshmen, a walk-on point guard, things are going to happen.”
The short-lived 5-4 lead would turn out to be CSUN’s last, as USC went on a 13-0 run over the next two minutes, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers by USC junior guard Katin Reinhardt.
“We turned it over, made a couple mistakes, and boom, it’s a 13-point game,” said Theus. “It was that quick.”
The Trojans would not let their foot off the gas either, as they would stretch the lead to as many as 26 by the 11-minute mark.
The lone bright spot amidst the first half rout was freshman guard Jason Richardson, who racked up 10 points and two assists.
Nevertheless, CSUN went into halftime trailing 26-46 due in large part to allowing USC to shoot 7-13 from the 3-point line and allowing the Trojans to grab nine offensive rebounds.
Following the halftime break, things didn’t get any better for the Matadors, who quickly fell behind by 25 four minutes into the half, consistently struggling with the Trojans’ size and inclination to play fast.
“We expected it; we knew it was coming,” said freshman guard Jason Richardson about USC’s size and speed. “It was just [about] executing once you get out there. It’s a whole different thing seeing it on film and coming out there and actually doing it.”
With any chances of a comeback being slim to none, the Matadors appeared disengaged and fatigued, allowing the Trojans to beat them to several loose balls, drive past them and shoot open 3-point shots.
“If you give up 13 threes, you really don’t have a chance to win the game,” said Theus. “Especially if you only made one. That’s just the bottom line.”
As a result, USC nearly doubled up CSUN’s point total when they took a 37-72 after Reinhardt’s fifth 3-pointer of the game.
Luckily for the Matadors, 35 would be as bad as it would get, as the pace possessions took up more time and they were able to cut into the lead.
The Matadors walked out of the Galen Center with more questions than answers after getting handily defeated by the Trojans, but Theus was not too down on, or forgiving to, his team.
“2-3,” he said, reflecting on where the program and team stands. “With a chance to be .500 on Wednesday.”
CSUN gets another opportunity to take down a Pac-12 opponent when they face UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, Nov. 29. Before that, they will have to travel to Loyola Marymount on Wednesday Nov. 25.