Matadors’ second half proves no match for Gauchos

Originally published on Feb 12.  

By Tomas Rodriguez

The Matadors’ high scoring offense continued to do what they have done all season long in Big West play, by beating the Gauchos 77-55.

With a minute left in regulation and the Matadors leading by 19, senior guard Aaron Parks was not done yet.

Off a pick he rushed toward the paint, splitting through three defenders and got fouled as he made the lay up. The crowd exploded with cheers and many of the players on the Matadors’ bench joined the crowd with excitement as he converted his second three point play of the night.

After only scoring two points in the first half, he finished the game with 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

“We hope we can bring more fans every night because I feel like we are giving them a chance for them to come and see something special,” Parks said. “For us to feed off their energy, it was awesome.”

With a win against UC Santa Barbara, the CSUN men’s basketball team have now matched last year’s win total and are making a run for the Big West title with five games left in the season.

The visiting team maintained only a three point deficit after reaching halftime at the Matadome, but it proved to be no match against the Matadors’ strong defensive second half.

“It really boiled down to the defense getting our offense going,” head coach Reggie Theus said. “We had two separate times where we made three stops in a row. That really changed the game. That’s what we really look for down the stretch in games.”

Theus screamed at his players to “put more pressure” on the visiting team. They responded by scoring 36 points in the paint and holding the Gauchos’ offense to 8 of 27 shooting in the second half.

“We are starting to be more disciplined in defense,” Parks said. “I feel if we stay together on a defensive end, we can be the best in our conference.”

With the Gauchos’ having some key injuries as well, the Matadors were able to lead in defensive categories like rebounds and steals.

“Everyone had to pick it up,” forward Tavrion Dawson said. “We are missing some guys and we all just have to get rebounds and play together. That’s what we did tonight. I have to rebound, there’s no other option.”

Dawson notched his fifth double-double of the season and his fourth in the last five games, but the Matadors’ team defense proved to be the difference maker in the game.

At around the five minute mark in the second half, CSUN’s lead grew to 11 after a three point basket by guard Kendall Smith. The Matadors then went on a 19-8 run to end the game.

Smith finished the game with 17 points and six assists. He is currently behind Cal State Fullerton’s Tre’ Coggins for most points per game in Big West play with 16.2 points.

Guard Darin Johnson also scored 16 points to be the fourth Matador to finish the game with double digits.

With two road games coming up against UC Davis and UC Irvine, both who are on top of CSUN in the Big West standings, Theus wants his team to finish their four-game home stand with a win.

“Right now we are half a game behind first place,” Theus said. “Our vision is at the top of the conference, but in order to get there, we have to take care of our business at home.”

The Matadors swept the season series against the Gauchos and will face Cal Poly at home on Wednesday.

 

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