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No. 1 Riverside Saves Face in Final Minutes to Deny CSUN

February 05, 1989|MIKE HISERMAN | Times Staff Writer

It's an old adage, but, in this case, particularly appropriate.

The bigger they are the harder they fall.

And UC Riverside, ranked No. 1 in Division II basketball, would have made quite a divot on the floor of the Cal State Northridge gym.

But it didn't.

Instead, it was the expectations of Northridge players and fans that went splat in the final minutes of an 86-79 loss to Riverside in a California Collegiate Athletic Assn. game Saturday night.

Northridge (12-8, 3-4 in conference play) can take some solace in that it certainly didn't give the game away. It was taken from the Matadors.

Riverside, which has won 14 in a row, shot 55.4%, including 63% (17 of 27) in the second half.

Maurice Pullum led the way for the Highlanders, connecting on 5 of 11 3-point shots and finishing with 28 points.

Chris Ceballos had 16 points and 9 rebounds for Riverside and Jimmy Shorters added 15 points in 17 minutes off the bench.

Darren Matsubara scored a team-high 24 points for CSUN.

Riverside, which has a win over Iowa to its credit, finished the first half of its CCAA schedule 7-0. The Highlanders are 18-2 overall, but only 1 of their losses came on the court. The other was a forfeit caused by the use of an ineligible player.

Northridge is 3-4, but still in the hunt for a berth in the 4-team CCAA postseason tournament. The Matadors are tied for fifth with Cal State Bakersfield--their opponent at home on Thursday.

But nobody was thinking about such things after letting a big fish off the hook.

"When you're playing with such a slight margin of error you have to always be attentive," CSUN Coach Pete Cassidy said. "You need 40 minutes--not 35."

Actually, the Matadors put in 32 Saturday.

Northridge, which led by as many as 7 in the second half, led for the last time, 58-57, after a Jemarl Baker jumper with 8:09 left.

The shot only temporarily slowed Riverside, however. The Highlanders, already on a 12-6 run, took off on a real tear, scoring their next 8 times down the floor to gradually pull away.

Included in the run were 4 3-point plays, 2 on 3-point shots by Pullum and Shorters. The others came in a particularly frustrating fashion for the Matadors.

Twice Riverside beat the Matadors' full-court press with a deep pass. And twice Shorters made layups with CSUN's Todd Bowser fouling--too late and too light--from behind.

The last of Shorters' 3-point plays came with 3:18 left and gave Riverside a 75-66 advantage.

Still, Cassidy couldn't fault his team's effort.

Down, 76-69, and fading with 1:55 left, Northridge gave it a last-ditch try.

A 3-point play by Bowser pulled the Matadors within 4. Then Baker stuck a 3-point shot and Riverside's lead was 77-75 with 1:33 left.

In the next minute, Riverside pulled away for good, making 7 free throws, including the front ends of 4 1-and-1 opportunities.

Riverside, which had trailed at the half only twice this season, was even with Northridge at the break Saturday. A 3-point shot by Chris Jackson at the buzzer from beyond the top of the key enabled the Highlanders to tie, 36-36.

Northridge trailed Riverside for most of the half before going on a 12-4 run to take a 31-29 lead on a 3-point shot by Derrick Gathers.

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