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Cal State Northridge outlasts Hawaii in Big West late-night thriller

March 14, 2014|By Chris Dufresne
  • Josh Greene celebrates after helping Cal State Northridge defeat Hawaii, 87-84, in overtime Thursday night in the Big West Conference tournament.
Josh Greene celebrates after helping Cal State Northridge defeat Hawaii,… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)

The best first-round game of the Big West tournament on Thursday got the least notice because it ended at 10:56 p.m. Pacific time in front of a sparse crowd at the Honda Center.

Cal State Northridge's 87-84 overtime win over Hawaii, however, deserved more than a tack-on blurb at the end of a long day.

Northridge, under first-year coach Reggie Theus, blew a 16-point first-half lead but rallied back from 13 points in the second half.

The fifth-seeded Matadors tied the score at 74 on senior Josh Greene's three-pointer with 12 seconds left in the second half.

"We call him 'Big Shot Josh,'" Theus said.

Theus then gathered his team together and said the game was in the bag because nobody does overtime like the Matadors.

Thursday's game was Northridge's seventh overtime game of the season.

"I told our guys, 'This is what we do,'" Theus said. 

And this is what they did: Hawaii led, 84-81, when Warriors' Coach Gib Arnold decided to intentionally foul Greene before he could tie the score with another three-pointer.

Greene made both free throws but, under full-court pressure ordered by Theus, Hawaii turned the ball over on the inbounds.

Northridge then fed the ball to 6-7 forward Stephen Maxwell, who made the go-ahead spin shot with 12 seconds left. Northridge added two insurance free throws and then sweated out Hawaii's last-second shot that would have sent the game to a second OT.

Theus, a former UNLV star and NBA All-Star, has only marginally improved the team's win-loss record in his first season, from 14-17 to 16-17.

But he's already brought swagger and confidence to the program.

"Winning is a learned skill," he said after the game.

Northridge will get a lot more attention if defeats third-seeded Long Beach State in Friday night's semifinals.

It's the late game again, though, starting at about 9 p.m. after UC Irvine and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo play.


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