MOSCOW UPDATE: Northridge Tops Vandal Men

Cal State Northridge parlayed a tenacious second half trapping zone defense and a huge edge in free-throw attempts into a come-from-behind 59-54 win over the Idaho Vandals at the Cowan Spectrum Saturday night, the Vandals' second straight home loss in conference play after winning their five conference home contests.

The Vandals dropped to 6-7 in Big West action, and are one-half game behind fourth-place Fullerton (7-7) which lost at Long Beach State (3-10) 66-63. Idaho is one game ahead of idle UC Santa Barbara (5-7). Northridge (10-4) climbed into second place in the standings thanks to 14-0 Pacific's stunning 64-63 win at Utah State (9-4). Pacific came back from a 6-point deficit with less than a minute to play to pull out the win.

Idaho had a lot of success against Northridge in the first half racing out to a 36-27 lead keyed by a big run at the 7:53 mark. With the score tied at 19, the Vandals hit 5 of their next 7 field goal attempts including 3's by Armend Kahrimanovic and Tanoris Shepard to pull out to a 10-point lead. The Vandals shot 48% from the floor including 6-of-12 3's compared to 44% and 25% for the Matadors. The Vandals also hit both their free throw attempts and Northridge hit only 59%, but the Matadors visited the line 17 times making 11 to stay within shouting distance. That disparity proved pivotal in the final outcome.

The Vandals went ice cold in the second half making just 4 of 22 shots from the floor (18%) as Northridge turned up the intensity with a trapping zone defense. The Matadors also improved to 50% from the floor in the final 20 minutes and shot 20 free throws making 11. The final tally had Northridge making 21 of 37 free throws to 11 of 16 for the Vandals. Idaho made 18 field goals (including 7 3-pointers) compared to 17 (4 3's) for Northridge.

After the game a disappointed coach Leonard Perry did not make excuses, saying only that the Vandals did not get the job done. Asked for his comments, Perry simply said, "Disappointed. Disappointed we didn't get it done." He was asked if the trapping defense presented problems for the Vandals. "We had about the same amount of turnovers (tonight) that we had at their place; so that's about right," he said.

Northridge used a lot of man-to-man defense in the first half showing the zone only on a few occasions. "We made some 3s early; so I thought they were a bit reluctant maybe in the first half to jump in (a zone), but usually throughout the year they've played a lot of man in the first half and a lot of zone in the second," he said.

Perry was asked about the officiating "They shot 37, we shot 16 (free throws). Their best 2 players went to the line 21 times. Our best 3 combined went 12, and they were pressing and trapping. We were just playing solid man-to-man and a 2-3," he said. Asked if the free-throw disparity was one of the keys to the game, he said, "Yeah. Absolutely. That's part of it," but he then returned to his original statements that the Vandals didn't finish the job. "I thought we got some pretty good looks (in the second half). We got good looks, we just didn't make ‘em. We got some open shots, we didn't make ‘em. We shot a horrible percentage in the second half, 18%. You're not going beat very many people shooting that percentage, but...I thought we got some decent looks."

Shepard was asked if the trapping defense bothered the Vandals, and he expressed the same feelings as Perry. "We just didn't hit shots," he said. "We got the shots we wanted. The trap didn't bother us. It was just that when it was time to step up and make plays -- that's what basketball players have to do -- tonight we didn't do that. We had probably one person, Dandrick Jones, who was coming through for us. He can't be the only one that carries the whole night. Somebody else has to step up and make something happen...There may have been some times where we kinda got disrupted, but for the most part, the majority of the time, we were getting what we wanted. Like I said, we've got to make plays. That's what we were brought here to do – play basketball and make plays and win games. We've got to find a way to make plays. That's how I feel about it."

Jones felt the officiating played a roll in the game but refused to make excuses for the loss. "Almost every shot I shot (Ian) Boylan was pushing my elbow up, but you can't complain about the officials. Just go out and play. We practice like that all the time so it really didn't bother us, but I think it did affect the game a little bit…It's not the first time the officiating has been bad and it won't be the last. We've got to learn how to play through it and just overcome it, make plays."

Both Lionel Davis (who led both teams with 12 rebounds) and point guard Jerod Haynes (who had a game high 7 assists) fouled out in the second half. Shepard was asked if losing Haynes hurt the Vandals offensively. "It hurt us a little bit, but that wasn't the cause. We could have overcome that. We just didn't get it done tonight."

Shepard was asked if the Vandals need to find some way to back up Jones who has been their top point producer. "Yeah, absolutely," he said. "Starting with myself. I've got to find my rhythm again, get back into the groove that I was in and try to get him some help out there. He's like the Lone Ranger out there trying to get it done and carry us to a win. He's doing it while they're keying in on him; so it's tough for him. Anton and I are just going to have to try to step up and hit some shots and make some plays. Point blank. There's nothing else to say about it."

Northridge coach Bobbie Braswell was happy to escape with the win, and after the game he revealed he had told the Matadors they needed to find a way to shoot a lot of free throws in order to have a shot at a win. "Overall from a general standpoint…this is a difficult place to play. Not a lot of people can come up here and win…Idaho shot the ball extremely well in the first half of the game and guys were knocking down some big threes and making some plays, and I just told the guys to keep toughing it out and keep being resilient and we had to keep defending. After halftime we came out and held them to 18 points in the second half, and that was a pretty good defensive effort for us in the second half…Believe it or not, I told them before the game we need to get to the free throw line about 36 times tonight, and the reason I say that is we have had a lot of success this season getting to the free throw line."

The Vandals are on the road next week visiting Cal State Fullerton Thursday and UC Riverside Saturday.




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