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Northridge Trips on the Road, 89-84

Men's basketball: Matadors slip into a tie for the Big Sky lead with Eastern Washington by losing to surging Idaho State.


POCATELLO, Ida. — Cal State Northridge learned the hard way not to overlook an opponent.

Now, if the lesson will only stick.

Coach Bobby Braswell could only hope after surging Idaho State shocked Northridge, 89-84, Thursday night to knock the Matadors from sole possession of first place in the Big Sky Conference.

Northridge (15-9, 8-3 in the Big Sky), making only two of its first 10 shots, fell behind, 19-6, and spent most of the game struggling to catch up despite a season-high 30 points by guard John Burrell.

The Matadors did, taking an 84-83 lead with 57 seconds to play on two free throws by Burrell. But six consecutive free throws by the Bengals settled matters.

The Matadors' performance was unsettling to Braswell, who offered harsh criticism after the game.

"I'm really disappointed in our guys," Braswell said. "I was disappointed with our effort and our intensity. It was the first game I really felt our guys came out and took a team for granted. It just goes to show that we can be beaten by anybody."

Including Idaho State (9-11, 5-4), which snapped a seven-game losing streak against Northridge while posting its third consecutive conference victory for the first time in five seasons.

The Bengals, who tied for last last season, were spurred by a season-high 30 points by guard Jordie McTavish, who had six three-pointers.

"It's huge to beat Northridge," McTavish said. "But any win in conference is big. We just weren't intimidated by them."

Northridge players were dejected after the game and at a loss to explain matters.

"We got what we deserved," center Brian Heinle said. "I just don't know what happened. They just wanted it more than us."

Northridge, picked to finish first in the Big Sky, defeated Idaho State, 90-73, last month at Northridge and hadn't lost to the Bengals since a 73-63 loss in 1997.

"I don't know what it is or how to explain it," Burrell said. "We just didn't come in mentally prepared. I think we tend to forget sometimes that everyone wants to win. We tend to win a couple of games and relax when we think we're on top of things."

Guard Markus Carr said the Matadors' seem distracted but declined to elaborate.

"I don't know if it's the weather or whatever," Carr said. "I think we tend to be looking ahead."

Northridge, its four-game winning streak snapped, is tied with Eastern Washington, which beat Weber State, 81-70, on Thursday night.

Eastern Washington defeated the Matadors at Northridge, 88-75, last month and plays host to Northridge March 1.

The Big Sky regular season champion hosts the conference tournament.

Braswell is more concerned with rekindling his team's fire.

"We still haven't figured that out," Braswell said. "We need to show more personal pride in our defense. We had plenty of time to prepare for this game. We just didn't step up to the challenge."

Northridge whittled the Bengals' lead in the first half, taking its first lead, 41-39, with four minutes to play in the half.

Idaho State extended a 50-48 halftime lead with a 12-5 run to begin the second half.

Burrell made six three-pointers, pulling Northridge to within 81-78 with five minutes to play. Burrell's two free throws with 57 seconds to play closed a 6-0 Northridge run.

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