SACRAMENTO — Cal State Sacramento held off a late surge by Cal State Northridge Saturday night and beat the Matadors, 74-70.
The Hornets built an early lead and CSUN fought back in the closing minutes, but was unable to overtake Sacramento.
"They were quick and a very good team," said CSUN Coach Pete Cassidy. "We played with a lot of courage and we played a helluva game. We almost pulled it out. It was a hard-fought, tough game."
CSUN fell to 7-5, with all five losses coming on the road.
The game almost was not played. At 8 p.m., the scheduled starting time, the teams finished warming up and lined up for the opening tip. Everybody--except the officials.
It took an hour for school officials to get a referee to Sacramento's gym. Cassidy was hardly pleased by the delay.
When Cassidy met with Sacramento Coach Bill Brown, he was ready to call off the game. But school officials assured Cassidy that a referee had been contacted and would be there shortly.
Said Cassidy: "I'm not happy at all--starting a game this late. I wanted to leave, but they said the ref was on his way. I didn't want to be a jerk about it. But I'm not happy."
"It's a distraction," CSUN assistant Mark Felix said during the long wait. "We came out emotionally charged up and because of the delay we came down a little. Maybe it'll mess them up more than us."
Unfortunately for the Matadors, it didn't.
The Hornets started hot. Cassius Kelleybrew hurt CSUN with his outside shooting early. Almost immediately, Sacramento established a quick tempo which, as it turned out, was to its advantage.
The Matadors managed to stay with the Hornets until the latter part of the first half. CSUN even held a 20-15 lead after guard Troy Dueker sank a layup on a fastbreak with 9:21 left.
But from that point until halftime, Sacramento outscored the Matadors, 22-6.
First, Hornet guard Van Gray hit from outside, then Sacramento ran off three quick baskets, two on breaks by Robert Martin.
CSUN guard Alan Gindlesperger finally answered with a jumper, but the Hornets came back with three more baskets and built their lead to 29-22.
Dueker hit two free throws. But Sacramento again hit three consecutive shots, and Derrick Hopkins pitched in two foul shots. That put CSUN behind, 37-24. Dueker drilled a shot before the half and Northridge trailed by 11.
Sacramento used a man-to-man defense to disrupt the Matador offense, then switched periodically to a zone.
CSUN came back strong at the start of the second half. Guard Paul Drecksel hit three shots, Paul Hobus scored from inside, and when Pat Bolden made a free throw at the 13:22 mark, the Matadors had cut the Sacramento lead to 45-39.
The Hornets then scored nine quick points, though, and the Matadors couldn't recover.
CSUN trailed, 67-56, when it began its comeback on four free throws by Daniels and Bolden. Two jumpers by Hobus brought the Matadors within 70-66, but the teams traded baskets in the final 36 seconds, leaving CSUN with the four-point loss.
"We saw some good things tonight, some things we hadn't seen before," said Cassidy. "After the long delay, we came out and played hard. It was a good effort and I was pleased with the way we played, especially at the end."
"We came back hard," Hobus said. " We made some key plays at the end. We forced some turnovers, we played tough defense, I thought we might pull it off, but they hit their last two or three free throws.
"I think the delay before the game may have hurt us, we didn't even know if we were going to play."
The loss dropped the Matadors record to 7-5. All five of the losses have come on the road. "We've got to learn to win on the road. Our first three league games are on the road."