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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Matadors Finally Feel in a Zone on the Road

College basketball: Northridge switches defenses and defeats Sacramento, 72-64, for first victory away from home.

January 16, 1998|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — The road remains an uphill climb for Cal State Northridge, but for the first time this season the Matadors left someone else's court with a victory.

Sluggish and fumble-fingered most of the way, Northridge resorted to a rare zone defense in the last eight minutes and put away hapless Cal State Sacramento, 72-64, Thursday night before 864 at Memorial Auditorium, a quaint, 75-year-old downtown venue that nearly became a Hornets' nest for the Matadors.

"A Picasso it wasn't," Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell said, "but we'll take them any way we can get them."

The Matadors were coming off their first Big Sky Conference victory and were facing a Hornet team ranked last in the conference in nearly every statistical category, but it took a late surge to end their road losing streak at seven.

Not until Carl Holmes scored off an offensive rebound to make the score 55-54 with eight minutes to play did Northridge (6-9, 2-3) lead in the second half.

Mike O'Quinn hit a three-pointer a minute later for a four-point lead, and Sacramento (1-12, 0-3) never got closer.

Northridge abandoned its usual pressure man-to-man defense late in the game and employed a zone against the cold-shooting Hornets. Three field goals by guard Sedessa Fisher was the extent of Sacramento's scoring in the last six minutes.

Meanwhile, several Northridge players stepped up. Forward Jeff Parris put back his own miss, was fouled and made the free throw with six minutes left for a 63-56 lead. O'Quinn made a layup with 2:20 to play and Lucky Grundy grabbed a rebound off his own missed free throw and made a layup for a 72-62 advantage with 48 seconds left.

"We had to work for this victory," O'Quinn said. "We had trouble shooting but we weren't going to let ourselves beat ourselves again."

Northridge held center Sean Houston, who averaged 23 points and 12.5 rebounds in two games since becoming eligible, to 11 points. Fisher led Sacramento with 23.

O'Quinn and Holmes each had 15 points and Parris had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Northridge forced 20 turnovers and committed 17--12 in the first half.

"The last eight minutes we picked it up a notch," Braswell said. "We limited them to one shot and made our free throws. It's strange to see us in a zone, but the kids feel comfortable with it."

Matador notes

Guard Mike O'Quinn flew to Sacramento later than his teammates because he is taking an inter-session class he needs to graduate in the spring. O'Quinn, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, returned to Northridge today and will join the Matadors on Saturday in Ogden, Utah, to play Weber State. . . . Sacramento State point guard Ryan Coleman, a freshman from Calabasas High, is third in the Big Sky Conference with a 4.2 assist average.

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