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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | SPORTS EXTRA / COLLEGE
FOCUS : NORTHRIDGE NOTEBOOK

Matadors Hitting the Tournament Trail

November 30, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK

December is tournament time for college basketball teams. And that includes the Northridge men and women, who take to the road this weekend for tournaments.

Northridge's men (3-1), fresh off a 75-50 victory over Cal Poly Pomona at home Tuesday, enter the Marquette tournament in Milwaukee on Friday against Kent State. The Matador women (2-2) open against California on Saturday in the Oakland Tribune Classic at Berkeley.

Kent State was 23-8 last season and has four starters returning from a team that reached the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Tournament.

Northridge, still buzzing from a 78-74 upset of UCLA last week, plays either Marquette or Centenary College of Shreveport, La., on Saturday.

"I know that Kent State is a very good team," Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell said. "Shoot, they won 23 games last year and something like 21 the year before. I think they're a lot like us. They're scrappy and they play hard. They're going to be a lot closer to home than we are, so it's going to be a tough tournament."

The women split two games last weekend in the New Mexico tournament, closing with a 90-54 victory over Nicholls State before returning home for an 84-59 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday.

Northridge, Big Sky Conference runner-up last season and conference champion in 1999, has started slowly while Coach Frozena Jerro has shuffled the lineup.

"This is a very new team," Jerro said. "But we've gotten some good scoring out of our bench. That's one of our strengths. There are a number of people who can step it up on any given night."

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All the fuss over Northridge's victory over UCLA has been slow to subside. Local television news cameras were trained on the Matadors against Pomona and the game was featured on at least one evening sportscast. The bandwagon might become more crowded when the Matadors play USC on Tuesday at the Sports Arena.

"We're trying to put this behind us and move on right now," center Brian Heinle said.

It's a bit of deja vu for the Matadors, who faced a media blitz last season after road victories over Fresno State and Oregon.

Only this is bigger.

"The feeling is a little different than last year," Braswell said. "The calls and responses have been bigger."

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Heinle, a 6-foot-9 senior, was selected Big Sky player of the week on the heels of his 32-point performance in a 70-69 loss Saturday at Nevada Las Vegas. Heinle scored 13 against UCLA and is averaging 19.5 points through four games. . . . Drew Amerson, who led the Big Sky with 71 receptions, was the only Northridge selection to the All-Big Sky football team. Quarterback Marcus Brady, punter Ethan Beck and defensive end Erik Gardner were second-team selections. . . . Midfielder William Diaz and defender Brandon Esparza of Northridge were second-team selections to the All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Pacific Division men's soccer team. . . . Middle blocker Laura Szymanski was selected to the All-Big Sky women's volleyball team for the third consecutive season.

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