Four Matadors scored in double figures as California State University, Northridge defeated University of San Diego 83-78 on Thursday afternoon at Premier America Credit Union Arena. Atin Wright scored a career-high 31 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with six rebounds while Fidelis Okereke posted 14 points and eight rebounds. De’Sean Allen-Eikens chipped in with 12 points and eight rebounds and Dionte Bostick finished with 10 points. The Matadors led for nearly the entire contest and throughout the second half en route to the victory.
After falling behind 6-2 at the start of the game, the Matadors pulled in front with a 13-4 run as Wright and Ethan Igbanugo hit 3-pointers. CSUN would knock down 6-of-9 from 3-point range in the first half to help maintain a lead. Marcel Stevens and Wright connected on back-to-back treys near the nine-minute mark to build a 23-14 advantage.
USD would battle back to within two after a 7-0 run but CSUN responded with a 7-3 spurt to lead 32-26 with 2:06 on the clock. The final two minutes of the first half though belonged to the Toreros. USD completed another 7-0 run in the final moments of the half, which was closed by a late layup from Nic Lynch to put the Toreros ahead 33-32.
Following intermission, the Matadors came out quickly with five-straight made baskets to kick off the second half. During a 9-0 run, four Matadors scored points including Bostick who stole the ball and finished with a fast break dunk. Moments later, the Matadors extended their lead to double digits with consecutive baskets from Allen-Eikens. Cam Slaymaker also got into the scoring act with a 3-pointer at the 14:12 mark.
CSUN led by as many as 14 points (51-37) before a USD 7-0 run brought the visitors to within 51-44. Wright though scored 12-straight CSUN points to help keep a double-digit lead. Bostick would put the Matadors ahead 65-52 with a free throw at the 5:14 mark of the game but the Toreros made one final push in the closing minutes. A 9-2 run for the Toreros, capped by a 3-point play from Wayne McKinney III, trimmed the Matador lead to 73-69.
CSUN would extend to an eight-point lead but USD fought its way back to a four-point deficit on a Sigu Sisoho Jawara basket with 44 seconds to play. After Allen-Eikens split two free throws at the foul line, Sisoho Jawara cut the lead to three with two free throws. CSUN held on to an 81-78 lead with less than 20 seconds to play before finding a way to break the full court press leading to an Okereke dunk to help clinch the win.
The Matadors shot 46.3 percent from the floor while San Diego finished with a 41.5 shooting percentage. CSUN made 9-of-17 from the 3-point arc (52.9 percent) and 24-of-31 at the free throw line (77.4 percent). USD hit 29-of-34 at the foul line (85.3 percent) and 5-of-21 from three (23.8 percent). The Matadors won the rebounding battle, 35-30, and posted a 24-9 edge in bench points.
Fidelis Okereke went 6-of-9 from the floor while adding two blocks in 25 minutes. His two blocks moved him into a 10th place tie with Frankie Eteuati (2010-12) on the CSUN career block list with 49.
For USD, Sigu Sisoho Jawara had a team-high 25 points while Marcellus Earlington added 22 points.
“I’m happy for the guys,” said head coach Trent Johnson. “It wasn’t pretty but we found a way. I thought they did a good job of playing through a lot. They could have lost their poise but they continued to stay the course. I think we went up 10 or 12 and we again tried to do too much on our own as opposed to staying within the system offensively and defensively.”
CSUN is off for a week before beginning Big West play at Cal Poly on Thursday, Dec. 29. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. on ESPN+. Ghizal Hasan and Alan Zinsmeister have the call in an audio broadcast at GoMatadors.com/Radio.
“We have good young men,” Johnson said. “This group, they listen and they are together. They’ve stayed together and stayed the course throughout all of these close games. As much as I don’t like to talk about me, it’s my responsibility in close games to get them over the hump.”