Northridge, CA – In California State Northridge’s (CSUN) home opener, the CSUN Matadors faced the Montana St. Bobcats (MSU) in what was the Bobcats third straight road game to open up their season. CSUN, led by second-year Head Coach, Reggie Theus, earned their first win of the season, in a hard-fought 72-65 contest. After having a strong season last year finishing runner-up to Cal Poly in the Big West Championship Game, CSUN appeared determined to earn an early season victory after losing their first two games against nationally-ranked opponents San Diego State and Arizona.
The Matadors blew the game open early by stifling the Bobcats on offense, holding them to a mere 24.1 percent shooting and nine forced turnovers in the first half to take a 35-21 halftime lead. Senior guard Stephen Hicks got CSUN off to a fast start offensively, while junior forward Tre Hale-Edmerson deterred Bobcat players from entering the paint with his solid interior defense.
The second half produced a much more competitive game, as sophomore guard Stephan Holm led the Montana St. charge with 17 second half points. MSU was able to shoot their way back into the game by connecting on seven 3-pointers in the second half. Ultimately, however, CSUN’s interior defense and lengthy defenders contributed to 17 Montana turnovers and 12 blocked shots in the paint. With less than 30 seconds to play and CSUN leading 68-63, Hale-Edmerson had two consecutive blocked shots to preserve the lead and seal the win for the Matadors.
This game exposed some weaknesses for the Bobcats, as their lack of size at guard creates an advantage for the defense. CSUN was able to play up on starting guards Marcus Colbert (5’11”) and Michael Dison (5’9”), forcing them into the paint and into the waiting arms of Hale-Edmerson (4 blocks) and Devonte Elliot (5 blocks). Although Colbert’s athleticism and quick ball-handling opened up the floor for Stephan Holm’s 20 points on (6-of-13 from the field; five 3-pt FGM), the Bobcats offense was devoured inside the arc (11-of-32 2FGs, 34.4%).
Most impressive for CSUN was the play of Hicks, as he demonstrated great quickness driving to the hoop and the ability to finish the play regardless of contact. His strong interior play led to some desperation fouls by the Bobcats, and Hicks was able to connect on 9-of-10 free throws to add to his game-leading 23 points. On the defensive side of the ball, CSUN found a lethal mix of long and lengthy defenders. Starting the game they utilized Hale-Edmerson, a lengthy big man who finished the game with four blocked shots and many more altered shots. To spell him, they brought in 6’10” senior Devonte Elliot, who finished the game with five blocked shots and seven rebounds (five offensive) in only 22 minutes on the floor.
As for MSU, they were led by Colbert’s solid outside shooting which is bolstered by his ability to handle the ball and create open shots for his teammates. As such, Holm was able to free himself up for 20 points, mostly off of the dribble drive of Colbert. When the two of them have the hot hand from behind the arc, as they did tonight, they are able to keep their team within striking distance.
CSUN will head to Little Rock, Arkansas next to face Samford in their third game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational Mainland Challenge. Montana St. continues their difficult start to the season by heading to Buffalo to face the Bulls before finishing their five-game road trip at top-ranked Kentucky.
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