Northridge, CA – Thanks to a strong second half showing, Stephen F. Austin (SFA) defeated the Cal St. Northridge Matadors (CSUN) 61-57 on the road to collect their ninth straight victory and improve to (10-3) on the year. Meanwhile, the losses keep piling up for the Matadors (3-11) who have now dropped their fourth consecutive game, and nine of the last ten overall.
Both teams shot the ball poorly to begin the game and neither team looked poised to grab any sort of momentum. CSUN was unable to take advantage of SFA’s lack of height and appeared either unable or unwilling to pound the ball inside. As for the Lumberjacks, their slow shooting start was due in large part to their leading scorer, Jacob Parker, picking up two early fouls and being forced to sit out the last 10-plus minutes of the 1st half. With Parker out of the game, SFA struggled to find a go-to guy to provide them with a threat in the game offensively. For the half, SFA shot 10-of-27 from the field and only 3-of-14 from 3-point land. It was not until the 10:51 mark in the 1st half when CSUN’s top weapon, Stephan Hicks, began to really heat up and end the half with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Although down 34-25 at halftime, SFA started out the second half on fire and played a much more efficient game on both ends of the floor. They went on a 23-5 run to begin the half and took a 48-39 lead with just over 10 minutes remaining. SFA also appeared to have found an answer to their first half woes guarding Hicks, as they rotated both the 6’5” Ty Charles and the 6’6” Parker to hold Hicks to only one 2nd half point. Parker’s game is impressive as he quietly gets the job done night in and night out for the Lumberjacks. He’s not a finesse guy with fancy dribble moves and athletic spins in the lane; instead, Parker is more of a classic small forward who likes to play the pick-and-pop / catch-and-shoot game all while displaying excellent fundamentals. Defensively he is smart, and he’ll get after opponents utilizing great positioning and intuition, as was evident Monday night when he helped to lock up the offensively gifted Hicks.
Parker’s strong all-around play was not enough to preserve the Lumberjacks’ lead, however, as SFA needed all 14 of Ty’s 2nd half points (17 points in total) to hold off CSUN for the victory. The four 3-pointers made by Charles is what helped push the SFA lead to double-digits, but with the game close in the final minutes, it was his two made free throws that gave the Lumberjacks the 59-55 lead with 13.4 seconds left. After a quick CSUN layup on the other end, it was up to Parker to connect on some more clutch free throw opportunities. With 5.6 seconds remaining, Parker calmly connected on both free throws to seal the win and preserve SFA’s winning streak.
As for CSUN, they have struggled getting production off their bench all season, coming into this game averaging just under 12 bench points per game. Monday’s game was no different, as CSUN’s bench combined to score only three points on 1-of-7 shooting – the three coming on a buzzer beating 3-point heave by Ajon Efferson to end the half.
Unfortunately for the Matadors, the first half of the season has been a disappointing one. They now only have one non-conference game remaining against Morgan State before they open up Big West play at Hawaii (11-4, 1st in Big West Conf.). The Lumberjacks, however, look to stay hot and push their win streak to double-digits against the McNeese State Cowboys after the New Year.
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