If ever there was a time for the Cal Lutheran men's basketball team to end years of frustration and ambush Cal State Northridge, Tuesday night was probably it.
The Kingsmen had played two games and Northridge, a team that historically starts slowly, was opening its season. Sure enough, the Matadors shot only 34.3%.
But that was good enough as Northridge won its 17th game without a loss to Cal Lutheran, 78-67, at the CSUN gym.
The Matadors' advantage on the boards allowed them to miss a few more shots than the Kingsmen. CSUN had a 48-32 edge in rebounding and outscored CLU, 25-3, at the free-throw line. Cal Lutheran Coach Larry Lopez had to swallow the rebounding margin but he had a tougher time accepting the advantage at the foul line.
"They didn't have any trouble finding the free-throw line, but for some reason we did," Lopez said. "I can't believe we were that much more aggressive than they were."
Northridge attempted 35 free throws to Cal Lutheran's six.
Pat Bolden, who thought his season might be over after suffering a knee injury in practice last Wednesday, led the Matadors with 22 points and eight rebounds.
Bolden had knee surgery before last season and it was at first feared he might need another operation, but it turned out to be merely a strained muscle. He had not worked out since Wednesday's practice.
Bolden made only 4 of 10 field-goal attempts but connected on 12 of 14 from the free-throw line.
Chuck McGavran, a junior transfer from Orange Coast College, scored 18 points and was the only CSUN player to shoot 50% from the field. He was 7 of 14, including 4 of 10 from three-point range.
The Matadors were better from three-point range (7 of 19) than they were inside the 19-foot, 9-inch stripe.
Cal Lutheran (0-3), which was led in scoring by Steve deLaveaga's 23 points, shot 45.4%, and hung close during the second half after trailing, 39-27, at intermission.
"They had two games under their belts and it showed," CSUN Coach Pete Cassidy said of the Kingsmen. "They're a scrappy group. You really have to pay attention to deLaveaga."
Lopez, who is hoping that early season losses to Division II opponents like CSUN lead to victories over NAIA competition during the regular season, complimented the winners.
"They are going to be a good team. For it being their first game, they did some things very well defensively."
Cassidy seemed somewhat pleased afterward but said the Matadors could do better offensively.
"We have to be a little more poised and not hurry so much," he said. "Then, toward the end when they double-teamed us, we didn't attack when we should have.
"The first game I can understand that, but not the sixth."
The Matadors will have to get better fast. Their next two games are against Kansas State and Wichita State, both participants in the NCAA Division I tournament last season.
Cal Lutheran plays UC Riverside, another strong Division II team, at Riverside on Monday.
"We scrap," Lopez said. "This team has a lot of heart. I still feel good about our program. We're going up against stronger competition right now than we'll see in our conference. Hopefully, it will play off in conference games.
Cal Lutheran shot only 37.5% in the first half but was 18 for 34 in the second half once its fast break got rolling.
"We didn't move the ball well in the first half, but we hurt them with our transition game late in the game," Lopez said.
The Matadors' biggest lead was 58-42 with 10 minutes remaining.
McGavran, a guard, had seven rebounds for Northridge and Alan Fraser and Todd Bowser each had six. Ray Horwath added 10 points and five assists.