Cal State Northridge hands the men’s basketball team their first conference loss

Joshua Wang /HIGHLANDER

The Highlanders (12-8, 2-2) hosted the California State University, Northridge Matadors (7-12, 2-1) on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. Players wore t-shirts imprinted with “4ASDKids” during their pre-game warmups, honoring two organizations who are dedicated to educate and raise awareness concerning autism.

Cheered on by a boisterous student section throughout the game, the Highlanders went toe-to-toe with Cal State University, Northridge’s (CSUN) fast-paced offense, but were unable to complete a comeback late in the second half. Despite the loss, the Highlanders historic start to the season remains sound.

The Highlanders began the first half of the game with a strong offensive showing, netting 53% of their shots from the field. What ensued was a back and forth frenzy of lead changes, with five of them occurring in a 90-second interval. It wasn’t until CSUN sophomore forward Lamine Diane and the Matadors took over in the latter half, with Diane scoring a game-best 36 points. The Highlanders’ ball handling began slipping up, and were easily outscored late in the second half.

CSUN’s offensive effort was on full display the entire night and set the tone at the onset of the second half. The Matadors quickly established a nine-point lead to open the second period. They held onto this advantage for the remainder of the game, effectively outpacing the Highlanders, especially outside of the paint.

The Highlanders had a difficult night when it came to three-pointers, attempting 28 shots from beyond the arc with only nine points to show for it. On the other side of the court, CSUN’s junior guard Terrell Gomez, the top scorer in the Big West Conference, was lethal, accounting for 12 points on three-pointers alone.

Riverside freshman point guard Zyon Pullin was able to cut into the deficit with seven points off the bench, but a manageable five-point deficit in the second half quickly vanished. The Highlanders fell as far as 15 points behind on their way to a 12-point loss.

The Highlanders’ shooting struggles became more apparent in the free throw statline, where they shot a measly 8-of-17. This was a deciding factor for the game, as CSUN finished well above the Highlanders, netting 14-of-20.

Sophomore center Angus McWilliam led the Highlanders with 16 total points, followed by sophomore center Callum McRae and senior guard Dikymbe Martin, who finished with 14 and 13 points, respectively. 

The Highlanders put up a fight all night long, but were ultimately unable to fill the gap that was quickly going in the wrong direction. The fact still remains, UCR is off to a red-hot start, achieving a 12-win record faster than any UCR men’s basketball program in their Division I history. 

Next up, the Highlanders will face off against the California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo Mustangs (4-13, 1-2) on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m.

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