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Northridge Warms Up for a Chilly Trip, 101-77

Big Sky: Matadors rout Idaho State, games at Northern Arizona, Montana and Montana State loom.

January 23, 1998|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Finally something came easy.

Appearing relaxed yet assertive, Cal State Northridge led from the gate, shot well and defended even better in a 101-77 victory over Idaho State before 708 on Thursday night.

From Lucky Grundy's 18 points to Jabari Simmons' dunks to Mike O'Quinn's twisting layups to Brian Heinle's six-of-six shooting to Trenton Cross's 17 points and seven assists, Northridge was firing on nearly all cylinders.

Only freshman guard Carl Holmes struggled, missing all nine of his shots while fighting a cold, but Northridge still made 50% of its shots, its best effort against a Division I team.

With road games looming against top conference opponents Northern Arizona, Montana and Montana State, the victory was a momentum-builder.

The Matadors (7-10, 3-4 in Big Sky Conference play) have won three of four, losing only to Weber State when a last-second shot did not fall.

"This game was important to keep up in the conference and we kept playing the way we have been lately, doing the little things right," O'Quinn said. "We'll go on the road to win, no messing around."

It was all business against the Bengals (5-12, 1-6).

Grundy, Cross and Heinle, who had 16 points, posted season scoring highs. Ten Matadors scored and eight had assists, enabling Northridge to reach triple figures for the third time and first time ever against a Big Sky opponent.

"It was good to see so many players step up," Grundy said. "Heinle and Trenton both hit some big shots."

The first of Grundy's four three-pointers gave Northridge a 16-4 lead five minutes into the game, and in the next four minutes Cross hit a three-pointer and Heinle made two three-pointers.

Simmons' three-point play midway through the half put Northridge ahead, 30-11, a lead that never shrunk below 11 and grew to as large as 78-51.

Tywan Meadows, a junior forward, scored 28 points, seven above his conference-leading average. Idaho State made only 40.6% ot its shots.

The victory was the fifth in six home games, but Coach Bobby Braswell believes his team is improving regardless of the venue.

"This had more to do with us playing better basketball over the last couple of weeks," he said. "We got a lot of easy shots early because of our defense. We came out strong and that's something we've really been working on."

Despite the Matadors' string of struggles earlier this season, Idaho State Coach Herb Williams wasn't surprised by their performance.

"Every team will struggle at some point and that point is behind them now," he said. "That is a very good basketball team."

Matador notes

Guard Greg Minor, the Matadors' second-leading scorer, did not play because of a strain to his right groin. The injury has recurred several times since Minor tore the groin during his senior year at Canyon High. . . . A nine-foot inflatable Matador mascot without a name made its first appearance at a basketball game. "Students came up with the idea and they'll give him a name," said Brian Swanson, assistant athletic director.

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