GAME NOTES: The Cal State-Northridge Matadors attempt to halt their four-game losing streak on Thursday night, as they welcome the Cal Poly Mustangs to the Matadome for a Big West Conference clash.
Cal Poly hosted a BracketBuster matchup with Loyola Marymount last Saturday and came away with a thrilling 63-60 victory for its fourth win in the past five games to jump above .500 overall at 13-12. The Mustangs are in good position in the Big West standings with just four games to play (8-6).
Meanwhile, CSUN has been one of the more disappointing teams in the Big West this season, going 13-15 overall and just 4-11 in conference. Since winning three straight decisions a few weeks ago, the Matadors have fallen back on their losing ways with four straight setbacks, the most recent of which being a heartbreaking 73-72 decision at Southern Utah last Saturday.
CSUN has a slim 46-44 lead over Cal Poly in the all-time series, but the Mustangs won the first meeting this season, 75-64, in San Luis Obispo on Jan. 26. However, the Matadors have won five in a row in Northridge.
After falling behind by seven points at the half of its latest game, Cal Poly fought its way back down the stretch, leading up to Dylan Royer's game-winning 3-pointer with less than a second remaining. It was one of only two long-range buckets on the night in 18 attempts (.111) for the team, but the Mustangs made up for it with a strong shooting effort overall (.478), as well as with a 17- of-20 showing at the foul line. Brian Bennett was nearly flawless on his way to 23 points, shooting 9-of-11 from the floor. Chris Eversley and Royer added 13 and 12 points, respectively, and while Jamal Johnson didn't attempt a field goal, he handed out eight assists and committed zero turnovers. On the season, Cal Poly is being outshot, 46.3 percent to 41.7 percent, but it still boasts a +1.8 scoring margin thanks mostly to its strong free-throw percentage (.733) and a +2.9 turnover margin. Eversley is one of the Big West's top forwards with 15.5 ppg and 7.4 rpg, while Royer and Bennett are both on the verge of double-digits with 9.9 ppg apiece.
CSUN appeared ready to snap its current losing streak when Stephan Hicks' dunk with 21 seconds remaining last Saturday put it up by one, but it fell victim to SUU's game-winning bucket on the ensuing possession. It was a stellar shooting night for the Matadors, both from the field (.453) and the foul line (.821), but only one of their buckets came from 3-point range and they committed 15 turnovers. Stephen Maxwell was impressive in the low block with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Brandon Perry netted 12 points in 16 minutes off the bench. Scoring points is rarely an issue for CSUN, as it ranks second in the Big West with an average of 75.4 ppg, but its place near the bottom of the standings has come due to its porous defense, which yields nearly 74 ppg. Hicks is the spark plug with 16.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 2.0 spg, while Maxwell brings 14.9 ppg and 8.1 rpg to the table. Josh Greene rounds out one of the league's top scoring trios with 13.1 ppg.
Cal Poly is clearly the team with the most momentum, but it has played surprisingly bad on the road (2-11), meaning the Matadors have a great chance to snap their skid in this one.
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