WICHITA, Kan. — Steve Martin was right. Dead men don't wear plaid. They wear red, black and white Cal State Northridge basketball uniforms.
Pete Cassidy, whose team shot 35% in the Matadors' season-opening win over Cal Lutheran, had indicated that the figure was just slightly better than what a sharpshooting mummy could do from a crypt.
Saturday night against Wichita State, the Matadors stayed close for a while despite shooting just 32% but eventually were buried, 78-53, before 8,876 at Levitt Arena.
CSUN's demise was not entirely self-inflicted. Wichita State is a Division I team that made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Shockers played a pressure man-to-man defense and used their superior quickness and height to suffocate Matador post players on the few occasions when the Matadors didn't hurry shots from the perimeter.
CSUN (1-1) will try to prevent a repeat performance Monday when the team finishes its Midwest swing at Kansas State.
"The great lesson we should learn from all of this is to be more patient on offense," Cassidy said. "It stands to reason to me, if you're going to play 35-40 seconds of defense and 5-10 seconds of offense, you're going to have some fouls, get tired quicker and eventually, you're going to break down. That's exactly what happened."
CSUN trailed, 29-18, at halftime, but pulled to within 35-28 behind the play of guard Chuck McGavran, who scored eight of his game-high 19 points in the first four minutes of the second half.
At that point, however, the Shockers put the game out of reach when they began a 22-5, eight-minute run that didn't end until CSUN forward Pat Bolden sank a free throw with about seven minutes left.
Wichita State Coach Eddie Fogler, whose team shot 55% from the field and 40% from three-point range, lauded the Matadors for their effort.
"They're very good defensively and aggressively," said Fogler, whose team next meets Purdue. "At halftime, I looked at our guys in the locker room and said, 'They're better than you thought they were, aren't they?' "
Fogler made specific reference to CSUN center Todd Bowser, who seemed to be leaning and wrestling for position with the Shockers' entire front court.
"I wish our guys could play post defense the way he did," Fogler said.
Bowser, however, couldn't completely contain Wichita State forward Dwight Praylow (14 points) and center Sasha Radunovich (13).
"The guys we usually play against are either quick or they're bulky," said Bowser, who had seven points and four rebounds. "These guys tonight have the combination. They're quick and wide bodies."
Cassidy stressed that this trip is supposed to be educational for CSUN. Saturday night, he hoped Bolden learned the value of staying out of foul trouble--a condition that handicapped the Matadors against Wichita State.
Bolden followed his 22-point performance against Cal Lutheran with 12 against the Shockers, but his importance to the Matadors goes beyond scoring. When the 6-5 senior is on the court, the Matadors play with confidence. When Bolden is on the bench, they seem to be without leadership.
Bolden scored CSUN's first two baskets to give the Matadors a 4-2 lead, their only advantage of the night. Wichita State was ahead, 13-8, when Bolden went to the bench with his second foul with 11:55 left in the first half. By the time he returned almost four minutes later, CSUN trailed, 19-10.
With Bolden back in the lineup, the Matadors pulled to within 21-17. That was as close as they would get the rest of the way, though, as Bolden was called for charging on a basket that would have brought the Matadors within two points.
Once again, with Bolden on the bench, Wichita State seemed to sense tentativeness on the part of the Matadors and went on an 8-1 run to close out the half with a 29-18 lead.
"I thought I got some bad calls but we did rush our offense because their pressure is a little bit different from what we see in our conference," Bolden said. "We expect more of that same pressure when we play Kansas State. We pretty much know what we're doing wrong and I think it will improve with every game."