NORTHRIDGE, Calif. — Saturday night’s FOX Sports West’s Big West Game of the Week featured the upstart program trying to knock off the traditional conference powerhouse. Cal State Northridge might have had a chance to do so when they took a lead early in the second half but couldn’t capitalize.
Ultimately, CSUN showed it still has some growing to do while UC Santa Barbara showed why the Gauchos are still the team to beat in the Big West.
Santa Barbara moved to 2-1 in the Big West with a 79-69 win over CSUN, Saturday at the Matadome. It was a balanced effort with five players scoring in double digits, every player on the floor that played more than a minute grabbing a rebound and 30 points came from the bench.
"We need that kind of more balanced attack coming at people," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "I was really pleased. You can ask the guys in the locker room, the bench was what I talked about. The bench was what I was most proud of. I thought certain guys that got off the bench in the game grew up a ton and responded immediately."
As always, the Gauchos’ game starts and ends with big man Alan Williams, who scored 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting. But with Williams in foul trouble, the Gauchos found ways to work without him. Sam Beeler came off the bench for 10 and Kyle Boswell, one of the most effective sixth men in the Big West, scored 14 with eight assists.
"I love the fact that we responded really well to that challenge," Williams said. "Al is a load for people to handle and when we had Al on the floor we were much calmer. But the minutes (Beeler) played when Al wasn’t on the floor were crucial."
The weapons were numerous and all contributed, communicated and effectively overcame a second-half comeback by the Matadors to go up by three points early in the half. It was the Gauchos’ seventh win in nine games and they could be hitting their stride during a difficult stretch of the conference season.
CSUN, on the other hand, did not handle tight situations with the same authority that the Gauchos did. However, that’s not to say that they won’t soon. An athletic squad played tough throughout, battling and scrapping for each and every rebound right up until the final buzzer.
The talk throughout the packed Matadome was of the potential transfers in attendance that head coach Reggie Theus has lured away from Big East programs.
The Matadors aren’t there just yet, but Saturday night’s performance showed they aren’t backing down.
"Reggie obviously is going to have an impact here," Williams said. "You see the guys Reggie has on the sideline there? They’re going to give him the depth to play as fast as he wants to play and guys won’t run out of gas."