GAME NOTES: The Cal State Northridge Matadors look to avenge another early season loss when they tangle with the UC Riverside Highlanders in Big West Conference action at the Student Recreation Center.
The Matadors were impressive their last time out as they led from wire-to-wire in their 92-86 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night. The victory showed how much Northridge has improved in recent weeks, as it endured a 19- point loss to the Titans earlier in the month. The win was the second in three games for coach Bobby Braswell's unit, which would climb back over the .500 mark with another decision on Saturday. Despite the recent surge, Northridge is just 2-8 in the Big West standings, giving it the worst record in the 10- team league.
UC Riverside has picked up just one win over its past seven outings and as a result, is just a half-game ahead of the visitors in the conference standings. The Highlanders build a 14-point lead in the opening half, but the Warriors heated up to knock down 57.7 percent of their field goal tries after the break to overcome the deficit. In the loss, Chris Patton scored 13 points and Austin Quick added 12 off the bench.
Cal State Northridge leads the series with UC Riverside, 36-32, but the Highlanders have won the last two games, including a 65-64 verdict at the Matadome earlier this season.
Josh Greene and Stephen Maxwell each registered double-doubles on Thursday to help the Matadors take down Cal State Fullerton. Green had 24 points and 10 rebounds and Maxwell scored 16 points to go with 11 boards. Tre Hale-Edmerson also made a strong impression early on by netting 11 of his 17 points in the opening frame. The Matadors owned the battle on the glass, pulling down 47 rebounds (16 offensive) to Fullerton's 27 and shot 53.2 percent from the field in the contest. The win gave Braswell No. 500 for his career, and it came without leading scorer Stephan Hicks.
Hicks is leading Northridge in scoring (16.8) and steals (2.0), but is questionable for Saturday due to a knee injury. Maxwell and Greene may need to pick up the slack once again. On the season, Maxwell averages in 14.8 points and 8.4 boards per tilt, while Greene generates 13.2 points and 3.8 assists per contest to the Matadors to the second best scoring mark (77.2) and top steals average (9.1) in the Big West. The Matadors' ability to fill it up has been neutralized by their weak approach on the defensive end that has allowed opponents to score 75.5 ppg.
UC Riverside had a very strong offensive showing against Hawaii. It hit 50 percent of its field goal tries including 10-of-20 from beyond the arc with seven more assists (21) than turnovers (14). However, the Warriors managed to connect on 49.1 percent of their shots from the floor and hold a 10-4 edge in free-throw scoring. Patton paces the Highlanders with 12.5 points per contest while Chris Harriel and Josh Fox also contribute double-digit scoring averages.
The Matadors appear to have regained confidence despite losing their leading scorer to a minor injury. With or without Hicks available, Northridge has a very good chance of keeping the ball rolling as long as Greene and Maxwell continue to be productive in his absence.
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