Matadors make it four straight vs. Gauchos

NORTHRIDGE – Last year, UCSB’s season was cut short by Cal State Northridge.  On Saturday night, the league title may not have been on the line, but there was no change in the final result.

In what has become a familiar tale, the Matadors of Cal State Northridge (8-13 overall, 3-5 in the Big West) made it four straight over the favored Gauchos (11-8, 6-3), winning 76-69 in a Big West Conference showdown.

Despite a 21-point, 6-rebound performance from James Nunnally, and 20 and 8 from Orlando Johnson, the Gauchos never led in the second half, shooting an abysmal 27 percent for the half and 33 percent for the game.

Coming off of three straight losses, including two consecutive one-point losses, Northridge took the court with something to prove.

Led by an inspired showing from big man Willie Galick, the Matadors outhustled, outrebounded, and outplayed the noticeably taller Gauchos. The Matadors won the battle of the boards 43-33 and scored a majority of their points in the paint via putbacks and post-ups.  Galick scored 19 and grabbed 9 rebounds in the win.

The victory comes just hours after Northridge indefinitely suspended Lenny Daniel – perhaps their best player – for “conduct detrimental to the team”.  Daniel had been averaging 11 points and 8 rebounds.  No specifics were given as to the length or reasoning behind the suspension.

The half-court trap put forth by CSUN coach Bobby Braswell yielded many of the 17 turnovers by the Gaucho offense, and it seemed that Santa Barbara was content to shoot over the trap rather than go through it, en route to a season-high 34 three-point attempts, of which only 10 were successful.

Nunnally was 4-11 from long range, and James Powell was 3-11.  Powell finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds.  The trio of Powell, Nunnally, and Johnson provided 78 percent of the scoring for the Santa Barbara squad.

The game was tied at 60 before an 8-0 surge by the Matadors swung the game, including two clutch three-pointers by Vincent Cordell (8 points) and Vinnie McGhee (5 points), the latter of which bounced high above the backboard before rattling in.

Though a late three pointer by Nunnally cut the deficit to five, the Gauchos were kept at bay as they sent one Matador after another to the line, ensuring the victory.

Much of the game was played in the bonus and double-bonus, as the two teams committed 53 fouls and shot 66 total free throws combined, both high marks for any Gaucho game this year.

Northridge shot 30 free throws in the second half alone, finishing 25-35 on the game, while UCSB went 23-31.

Rashaun McLemore and Mark Hill were the only other players in double figures for the Matadors, with McLemore scoring 14 with 5 rebounds, and Hill posting 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.

UCSB, coming of a dominant 23-point victory over Cal Poly, had their 3-game winning streak snapped.  Aside from a thunderous block in transition by the sophomore Nunnally halfway through the second half, there was little defense to be seen by the Gaucho squad.

Though never trailing Northridge by more than eight points until the waning seconds, UCSB was simply unable to jump ahead.  A 20-point differential in bench scoring and an 18-point difference in points-in-the-paint may prove a good indication why.

The lead was traded back-and-forth throughout most of the first period, for a total of 11 lead changes, before Northridge extended the lead at the start of the second half.  Aside from the 60-60 tie, they did not relinquish it for the rest of the game.