09 Dec 2021 | 06:52 | Basketball
NORTHRIDGE, Calif.—CSUN Men’s Basketball (0-2) opens its home schedule and hosts the Good Sam Empire Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project presented by Continental Tire this weekend. The event will be held at The Matadome from Nov. 19-20 with the Matadors, Eastern Washington, Dixie State and Texas State competing in a four-team tournament.
The Good Sam Empire Classic opens with Dixie State versus Texas State on Friday at 11 a.m. before the Matadors host Eastern Washington in their home opener at 2 p.m. The losing teams will play in a third-place game on Saturday at noon while the winning teams face off in the championship game at 8 p.m. Ghizal Hasan and Alan Zinsmeister are on the call for both CSUN games on ESPN+ and GoMatadors.com/Radio.
The Matadors dropped to 0-2 on the season after a 68-52 loss at Notre Dame last Saturday. CSUN kept pace with Notre Dame throughout a low-scoring first half where the Matadors only trailed 32-26 at intermission. After a pair of early jumpers in the second half by Miles Brookins, CSUN was down 34-30 before the Fighting Irish turned the game around thanks to hot outside shooting. Dane Goodwin would cap a 16-5 run with a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 15 points. Notre Dame led by as many as 21 points in the second half and held off CSUN the rest of the way.
Atin Wright paced the Matadors with 12 points against Notre Dame while Darius Brown II and Onyi Eyisi added nine points apiece. Fidelis Okereke had a team-high seven rebounds to go with six points. Brookins scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting but was limited to 10 minutes due to foul trouble. Notre Dame was led by Blake Wesley, who finished with a game-high 21 points off the bench.
Through two games, Wright has averaged a team-best 11.0 points and shot 54.5 percent from 3-point range (6-of-11). Brown has posted 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists thus far while Brookins has averaged 8.5 points on 70.0 percent shooting (7-of-10).
Eastern Washington leads the all-time series with the Matadors, 11-9, but the teams have played just once since 2012. The Eagles prevailed in the teams’ last meeting in Dec. 2017 by an 86-58 decision in Cheney, Wash. The teams played 12 of their 20 games when CSUN was a member of the Big Sky Conference from 1996-01. The Matadors’ most significant victory over the Eagles came in CSUN’s last season in the Big Sky Conference in 2001 when the Matadors won 73-58 at The Matadome to clinch a conference championship and the team’s first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament.
The Matadors have little history with both Texas State and Dixie State in men’s basketball. CSUN defeated Texas State in the teams’ only meeting in Nov. 2009 in a neutral-site contest by an 85-82 score. The Matadors have never played Dixie State in team history.
A Closer Look at Eastern Washington
The Eagles (1-2) earned their first win of the season on Monday over Walla Walla (NAIA) by a 111-71 final. The team opened the season with losses at Nevada (91-76) and UC Davis (84-76). Eastern Washington advanced to last year’s NCAA Tournament and went 16-8 overall. Only six players and no starters have returned from last season’s Big Sky Tournament championship team as 12 newcomers have been added to the roster. Head coach David Riley is in his first season leading the program and 11th overall.
Newcomer Linton Acliese III, a San Francisco State transfer, is averaging a team-high 20.3 points and 9.7 rebounds through three games. Redshirt freshman Steele Venters is in his second season with the Eagles and has averaged 19.0 points on 55.6 percent shooting from the floor in the early going in 2020-21. Ethan Price (14.0 PPG) and Rylan Bergersen (10.0 PPG) are also scoring in double figures for the Eagles.
A Closer Look at Texas State
The Bobcats fell to 1-2 on the season after back-to-back road losses at LSU (84-59) and Vanderbilt (79-60). Texas State earned its first win of the season against Incarnate Word (75-57) on Nov. 9. A season ago, the Bobcats went 18-7 and won the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title for the first time in team history. The team was picked to finish third in the league this season. Four starters and eight returning players are on this year’s roster. Terrence Johnson is in his second season leading the program and seventh overall.
The trio of Caleb Asberry, Mason Harrell and Isiah Small earned Preseason All-Sun Belt honors this season. Asberry, a second-team all-league selection, leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game on 50.0 percent shooting while Harrell, a first-team honoree, is averaging 9.7 points. A third-team all-conference selection, Small is registering 9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds.
A Closer Look at Dixie State
The Trailblazers (1-1) defeated Southern Utah, 83-76, last Friday to pick up their first win of the season. Dixie State opened the campaign with a 97-63 loss at Gonzaga. The team finished off its first year at the Division I level and in the WAC last season by going 8-13 overall. The Trailblazers have returned four starters and 10 letterwinners from last season’s squad. Head coach Jon Judkins is in his 17th season with the Trailblazers.
Returners Hunter Schofield and Cameron Gooden were named honorable mention all-WAC last season. Schofield is averaging 17.0 points on 53.8 percent shooting while Gooden is registering 12.5 points per game. Jacob Nicolds has averaged 6.0 rebounds to go with 3.0 points through two games.