09 Dec 2021 | 06:51 | Basketball
NORTHRIDGE, Calif.—CSUN Men’s Basketball outscored Saint Katherine 13-2 over the final four-plus minutes to post a 71-62 victory on Wednesday at The Matadome. Christian Gray and Brendan Harrick led the Matadors in scoring with 13 points apiece.
The Matadors improved to 2-3 on the season with their second-straight victory while Saint Katherine (NAIA) stays at 3-3 after counting the game as an exhibition. CSUN shot 49.1 percent for the game and made 6-of-17 from 3-point range (35.3 percent) while Saint Katherine shot 38.3 percent and made 8-of-24 from 3-point range (33.3 percent). At the free throw line, USK made 8-of-10 compared to the Matadors who made 11-of-17 (64.7 percent). The Matadors outrebounded the Firebirds 37-32 and led in points in the paint, 38-26.
In a game with 14 lead changes and seven ties, neither side led by more than five points in the opening stanza. Tavon Tarpley led the charge for the Firebirds as he scored nine of his team’s first 13 points to put CSUN in a five-point deficit. The Matadors trailed for most of the first half but went in front 19-17 following a 7-0 run that was capped by a Kailen Rains 3-pointer. However, Saint Katherine continued to frustrate CSUN and would go ahead once more on a trey from Kody Clouet with five minutes on the clock.
After Tarpley sank a 3-pointer to put the Firebirds ahead by two, the Matadors shut down the opposition over the final four minutes of the half. Fidelis Okereke tied the game at 29-29 before Elijah Hardy made back-to-back baskets to send CSUN into halftime with a 33-29 lead.
Out of the intermission, Brendan Harrick made two-straight 3-pointers and Onyi Eyisi added a jump shot, giving CSUN a 41-34 lead. The Matadors led by eight points in the early minutes of the second half but Saint Katherine roared back with a 12-1 run to pull in front by one. Gray, Rains and Hardy helped CSUN put together a 7-0 run, however, the Firebirds scored six in a row moments later to take a 60-58 lead with 5:06 to play.
Trailing by two, the Matadors stood tall on the defensive end as they held the Firebirds to two points and no made baskets over the final five minutes. Gray made three-straight free throws to give the Matadors a 61-60 lead before Darius Brown II and Harrick followed with key baskets. Harrick’s 3-pointer with 1:32 to play put CSUN ahead 68-60. Brown and Hardy each made free throws down the stretch to seal the nine-point victory.
Gray finished 5-of-6 at the free throw line and dished out a team-high four assists. Brown pulled down seven rebounds to go with seven points. Eyisi added eight points, three rebounds and two blocks.
Brown, who had recorded at least one assist in 92 consecutive games, had his assist streak broken on Wednesday. He did make his 91st consecutive start with the Matadors.
For Saint Katherine, Tarpley had a game-high 22 points while Clouet had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.
COACH TRENT JOHNSON POST-GAME COMMENTS
“I don’t want to take anything away from Saint Katherine. Our intensity and lack of ability to play together, and we played a lot of guys, there was stuff that went on that I take full responsibility for. I’m big on things like you overachieve and we underachieved with every little aspect of the game. It’s hard to find the positives, but one of the positives is it’s a ‘W.’ The other thing is there are things that happened out there that we can have corrected.”
CSUN hits the road this Sunday for a game against the University of San Diego. Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. The game will stream at WCCsports.com while David Gascon and Alan Zinsmeister are on the call at GoMatadors.com/Radio.