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Rodrigue Mels lifts Cal State Northridge over UC Santa Barbara

The top-seeded Matadors advance to the Big West men's tournament championship game against Pacific, which upsets Long Beach State.

March 14, 2009|Robyn Norwood

Rodrigue Mels found his way from Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean to Paris to Midland College in Texas to Cal State Northridge.

Finding his way from the bench to the basket Friday night didn't prove much of a challenge.

Mels, a 6-foot-3 junior, came in to score a career-high 28 points in a 67-60 victory over UC Santa Barbara that put the top-seeded Matadors (16-13) in the Big West Conference men's tournament championship game against third-seeded Pacific tonight at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Mels came in after starting point guard Mark Hill picked up his second foul in the first two minutes and went to the bench, only to earn his third foul less than a minute into the second half.

"I just had to step up for my team. We have to win this tournament, and we're going to win it," said Mels, who ran the point and made 10 of 19 shots and three of four three-pointers.

Tremaine Townsend had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Mels, born in the French Caribbean, played high school basketball in Paris, following in the footsteps of such players as Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf. Last season, his Midland College team won the national junior college title. "These guys just found a way to win," Coach Bobby Braswell said.

Chris Devine led fourth-seeded UC Santa Barbara (16-15) with 16 points.

Pacific 65, Long Beach State 60 -- A 49ers team that starts three freshmen couldn't quite make it to the title game, falling to the Tigers in an intense battle. Using full-court pressure to force turnovers late in the game, Long Beach cut the lead from seven points with 1:15 left to one, 61-60, when T.J. Robinson scored with 15.7 seconds left.

But Pacific's Bryan LeDuc made two free throws with 7.5 seconds left for a three-point lead, and Donovan Morris missed a three-pointer for Long Beach before LeDuc added two more free throws with 0.1 of a second remaining.

Chad Troyer led the Tigers (19-11) with 22 points. Robinson had 21 for Long Beach (15-15).


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