MORAGA — Led by a unit of backups and walk-ons, the Cal State Northridge basketball team came to life Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Matadors, they still lost, 67-64, to St. Mary's in a nonconference game before 1,097 at McKeon Pavilion.
Northridge's Gerald Rhoden and Josh Willis each missed three-point shots in the final seconds, sealing the victory for St. Mary's (4-2).
Given the circumstances of the game, though, Matador players and coaches were happy with a near-victory.
"This is the first time we have played as a team," said sophomore Lucky Grundy, a walk-on who played 22 minutes. "We played together and died together, but we were together, and that's the best part."
The Matadors played without leading scorer Damion Morbley, whom Coach Pete Cassidy had left at home to take care of an academic problem. Cassidy said Morbley's fall semester grades, which came in Friday, may create a problem for his eligibility.
Northridge also played the second half without point guard Trenton Cross, who injured his hand late in the first half on a scramble for the ball. He will have X-rays in the next few days.
With the reserves making contributions, the Matadors (2-7) led by as much as six points in the second half.
"I'm happy as hell for these guys," Cassidy said. "I hope we can use this game as a jumping-off point."