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Men's Basketball: 'Eaters let lead slip away

Cal State Northridge rallies from 17-point first-half deficit to drop UCI to 1-5 in Big West road games.

February 07, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

NORTHRIDGE — Toward the latter portion of the second half, Cal State Northridge junior guard Josh Greene lay sprawled on his back, the victim of a collision that rendered him motionless with the beginnings of a discolored mouse under his left eye. Greene, however, proved to be as difficult to keep down as his team in a men's basketball clash Thursday with visiting UC Irvine.

Greene came back to hit consecutive threes in the final two minutes to help propel the Matadors to a 70-61 Big West Conference triumph that left coaches for both teams scratching their heads.

Northridge, which recently lost leading scorer Stephan Hicks to a knee injury, rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit and a 33-24 halftime disadvantage to win its third straight, all without Hicks.

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"They have a tough mentality and I give them credit for that," UCI Coach Russell Turner said of Northridge, which has now won four of its last five on the heels of a seven-game losing skid to open conference play. " [The Matadors] had better energy than we had in the second half, no question ... They were physically dominant in the second half. Their team is younger than we are, but they were stronger and they were hungrier."

UCI (12-12, 6-5 in conference), remains starving for success in road conference games, in which it is 1-5. The Anteaters, 5-0 against Big West foes at home, saw Northridge, which made three of its first 21 field-goal attempts, shoot 50% after halftime, including five of 11 from three-point range, to complete a reversal of fortune fueled by effort and grit.

"I challenged them at halftime, and defense won the game," Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell said. "We held them to 37.5% shooting in the second half, and we were plus-nine in rebounding in the second half [after being minus-five in the first 20 minutes]. I'm blessed. I thank the Lord that we don't give up and we kept fighting and kept working. We're playing without [Hicks] and I don't know how we're doing it."

Northridge (13-11, 4-8) ended the first half on a 15-7 run, then scored the first eight points after the break. Greene, who finished with a game-high 21 points, drained his second three-pointer within a span of 27 seconds to give the hosts their first lead at 47-46, with 11:32 remaining.

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