The Stanford Cardinal look to continue their winning ways on Tuesday Night as they play host to the Cal State Northridge Matadors at Maples Pavilion in the team's home season opener.
Johnny Dawkins' squad traveled to New Haven, Connecticut this past Friday and got their first win of the 2008-09 season by defeating the Yale Bulldogs, 75-67. Lawrence Hill led the Cardinal with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Anthony Goods chipped in 19 in a game which was tight throughout the first half, but saw the Cardinal gradually pull away in the second stanza for its first victory of the season.
While Stanford is playing this game at home, arguably the quality of opponent has increased exponentially. The Matadors are a near unanimous choice to win the Big West Conference this season, getting all but one first place from the coaches. Last season, Cal State Northridge managed a 20-10 record, going 12-4 in league play, although their season ended early due to a mild upset in the Big West Conference tournament's semifinals at the hands of the Cal State Fullerton Titans, who went onto win the tournament and represent the league in the NCAA Tournament.
Like Stanford, Cal State Northridge has a strong base of seniors, although it can be argued that the Matadors' seniors had better years last season as juniors than Stanford's collection. Spearheading a squad of eight lettermen and four redshirts coming back to play for head coach Bobby Braswell are senior standouts Deon Tresvant, Josh Jenkins, and Tremaine Townsend. Tresvant, a shooting guard was the first bench player to ever lead a team in scoring, getting nearly 14 a game, good for 10th in the Big West. Jenkins, the point guard, led the league in assists at 6.4 per contest. Townsend, a 6-9 forward, was a beast inside for Northridge, averaging nearly 10 rebounds per game and just over one block per contest, both tops in the conference. This trio doesn't even include three-year starter Rob Haynes, who averaged about seven points a game and made 40 three-pointers. Needless to say, this foursome could bring a lot of heat on the Cardinal defense, both inside and outside the paint.
However, in their first game of the season, Cal State Northridge struggled like Stanford did against a lesser foe, winning 73-62 at home over Cal Lutheran, a Division III team out of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. In that game, the Matadors were down one at the half before coming back for the win in front of just over 1,000 fans. Jenkins led the team with 16 points, while Haynes had 12, but it was junior forward Tony Osunsanmi who was the star of the game. The team calls him the "Dennis Rodman" of the squad and the 6-4 forward delivered off the bench with seven points and 14 rebounds (eight of them offensive) in just 19 minutes of play. If Osunsanmi repeats this performance, the Cardinal could be in for a long night on the offensive glass.
Stanford has won its last two home openers, including resounding victories over Harvard and Siena, but did lose to the Matadors' league foe, the UC Irvine Anteaters in a stunner to start the 2005-06 season, 89-73.
For Stanford to win, they will have to take the lessons learned in New Haven,
along with their two exhibition games, and really go after it on the glass to
keep Northridge from getting a ton looks on the offensive end. Even if
they can do that, it is no guarantee that they will be successful, but it would
limit the Matadors' possibilities of getting confidence on that side of the
court. Without the rebounding edge, it could be a long night for the
Cardinal and head coach Johnny Dawkins
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