There were 56 different combinations Coach Pete Cassidy could have used in his lineup Tuesday night in Cal State Northridge's final tuneup before the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. season begins Friday.
And he tried just about all of them. Unfortunately for the Matadors, this was not a case of emptying the bench to give substitutes playing time.
It was more of necessity than design.
Cassidy, whose team was playing without starting center Todd Bowser (bruised knee), spent the evening shuffling in different front lines in an attempt to find a combination that could stop Biola's All-American forward Johnny Griffin.
None of them were too successful as Griffin, a 6-5, 220-pound senior, scored 16 and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead the Eagles over the Matadors, 69-66, at Chase Gym in La Mirada.
Biola held a nine-point lead with a little more than one minute left, but the Matadors scored seven unanswered points to cut the margin to 65-63 with 43 seconds left.
Northridge had an opportunity to tie, but guard Chuck McGavran was called for a traveling violation with 33 seconds left. With the Matadors forced to foul, Biola converted both ends of two one-and-one free throw opportunities in the final 22 seconds.
It was Biola's 23rd consecutive home victory. The Eagles, ranked third in the National Assn. of Interscholastic Athletics, are 16-0 this season--four of those victories over CCAA teams. Northridge joins conference rivals Cal State Bakersfield, Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State Dominguez Hills as victims.
If it's any consolation, Griffin predicted afterward that Northridge would win the CCAA championship. The Matadors open CCAA action at home against Cal State Los Angeles.
"They're a lot stronger inside than any of the other teams we played," Griffin said.
But without the 6-8, 270-pound Bowser plugging up the middle, they weren't strong enough against Biola.
Alan Fraser started in Bowser's place but got into early foul trouble and had only 2 points and 1 rebound before fouling out with 4:50 left.
James Hecht, who had played only 50 minutes in 11 games, saw substantial playing time and grabbed five rebounds but did not score.
Ray Horwath, a starting forward, took his first shot at the post position and scored 16 points but made only 6 of 16 shots.
Both coaches agreed that the presence of Bowser might have swung the advantage the other way.
"If they would have had that big guy tonight, we would have been in trouble," Biola Coach Dave Holmquist said.
Said Cassidy: "Johnny Griffin is very difficult to defense anyway and it's especially tough when you don't have much depth inside."
Northridge (8-4) shot 43.3% but only 39.3% in the second half. Biola, which had four players in double figures, shot 52.2%.
"If we could have minimized our mistakes, improved our shot selection and made our free throws we probably would have won the game," Cassidy said. "I don't think they're a better team than we are, but they scored three more points tonight."
Northridge made 5 of 13 free throws; Biola was 16 of 23.
Biola led, 34-29, at the half, but Northridge scored 8 of the first 11 points in the second half to tie the score, 37-37.
The Eagles led, 39-36, with 13 minutes left then outscored the Matadors, 12-5, over the next three minutes to open up a 10-point margin.
Northridge trailed by as many as 10 on four occasions in the last 10 minutes but clawed back each time.
Forward Paul Jungkeit led the Eagles with 17 points and, along with Griffin, helped open things up inside for guard P. J. Wnek and Jeff Martineau, who combined for 25 points.
Wnek, who scored 14, was particularly effective in the second half, making 4 of 6 three-point attempts.
Northridge was led in scoring by McGavran, who had 18 but made only 4 of 12 three-point tries. Forward Pat Bolden scored 17 and made all five of his three-point attempts.