NORTHRIDGE – CSUN Men’s Basketball (7-10, 1-0 BWC) opened Big West Conference play with a come-from-behind 84-83 victory over UC Riverside on Wednesday evening at the SRC Arena. Sophomore Terrell Gomez scored a career-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting including six 3-pointers. Freshman Lamine Diane played the full 40 minutes and tallied 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while junior Rodney Henderson Jr. added 16 points and eight rebounds.
The Matadors shot 56.7 percent in the second half to finish with a 52.7 clip while the Highlanders shot 46.6 percent. CSUN went 9-of-16 from 3-point range (56.3 percent) but UCR countered by going 14-of-30 from beyond the arc (46.7 percent). The Matadors committed just nine turnovers in the game including one in the second half and outscored the Highlanders 34-20 in points in the paint.
“I’m excited and proud of our guys,” said head coach Mark Gottfried. “I thought in the first half we didn’t play with a level of urgency that we needed to. In the second half, I thought our defense was much better and It got us going a little bit. Obviously, Terrell stepped up and made some huge shots and big plays. I’m shocked he didn’t make a foul shot there at the end but he had a heck of a game. It was a good team win and I liked our defense. We gave up a couple 3’s there late but we guarded them much better in the second half.”
The Matadors and Highlanders were tied seven times through the first 10 minutes of the first half. CSUN though never led in the period as the Matadors were hampered with eight turnovers. The Highlanders took advantage and turned those turnovers into 13 points on the other end. Dikymbe Martin led the Highlanders’ offense, helping spark a 10-3 run to put UCR ahead 30-23. Martin finished with 16 points in the half.
Following a Cameron Gottfried 3-pointer at the 6;17 mark, the Matadors went scoreless for four minutes. Meanwhile, the Highlanders built their lead to double digits after a jumper from Callum McRae (37-27). CSUN though ended the half on a positive note as a defensive stop led to a buzzer-beating layup from Gomez to pull the Matadors within 40-33 at the break.
CSUN would turn up its defense in the early moments of the second half, holding the Highlanders to two field goals for nearly the first seven minutes. Trailing 47-42 at the 16:31 mark, the Matadors went on a 17-4 run over a 5:19 span to take a 59-51 lead. Diane scored eight points during the stretch while Michael Ou capped off the run with a driving layup. Gomez would keep the Matadors in front with strong shooting from the outside as his 3-pointer made it a 63-57 game with under nine minutes to play.
Henderson Jr. also gave the Matadors a lift, scoring five-straight points including a 3-point play at the four-minute mark. However, UCR would not go away quietly. Martin closed the gap to four points on a jumper and later to 76-73 on two free throws. With the ball and less than a minute to play, Gomez made a timely hook shot in the lane to stretch the lead to five points. After Henderson Jr. and Brown hit free throws down the stretch, Martin trimmed the CSUN lead to 82-81 with 13 seconds on another 3-pointer.
The teams traded free throws before Gomez was fouled with five seconds left, sending the sophomore to the line. Gomez would miss both free throws, giving the Highlanders the ball and a chance to steal the game. Martin took a last-second 3-pointer but came up short as the final horn sounded.
The win gives the Matadors their first road win to start Big West play since the 2007-08 season. CSUN also stretched its winning streak at the SRC Arena to four-straight games.
For the Highlanders, Martin scored a team-high 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting.
The Matadors conclude a two-game road trip on Saturday evening against Cal Poly with tip off slated for 7:00 p.m.