A Stephen Maxwell dunk signified the end of the game, as Cal State Northridge overcame a halftime deficit to defeat UC Riverside 93-89. The "Battle at the Bottom of the Standings" turned into the most exciting game in the Big West tonight.
Freshman Sam Finley and the Highlanders looked strong for most of the night, but couldn't finish against Reggie Theus' squad.
The game began with the Matadors jumping out to a 14-7 lead, with Landon Drew initially scoring 8 points. The Highlanders responded with a 9-0 run to take the lead, and did not give it back until deep in the second half. UCR's zone defense proved to be effective, forcing missed shots and leading to easy dribble drive points on the opposite end.
The Highlanders were on fire, shooting 72% from the field at halftime, and they had limited the trio of Josh Greene, Stephan Hicks and Maxwell to 20 points total. Yet, at the end of the first half, the score was only 49-43 in favor of UCR; and that's when the Matadors woke up.
From there, Maxwell used his physicality to post up and score in the paint, while Greene began to heat up as well, contributing 15 points in the second half.
Neither team wanted to close out the game, as the scoring underwent 7 lead changes in the second half alone. This had been an issue that both teams were struggling with all season long; the end of regulation in this match was no exception.
With under 30 seconds left in the game, Josh Greene fouled Taylor Johns unnecessarily, allowing Johns to shoot free throws. Johns missed the first, and made the second.
Northridge in-bounded the ball, only to turn it over two seconds later; by Greene sliding out-of-bounds due to heavy pressure by the Highlanders. Riverside took advantage, tied up the game and forced overtime, only to lose it in the end (funny enough, on a Greene go-ahead 3 point FG).
Maxwell finished up with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while Greene added 22 of his own for the Matadors. Stephan Hicks was unusually quiet, with only 13 points and 8 rebounds.
A quick note on Sam Finley: if he stays focused and out of trouble, he will be a very special player to the Highlanders. It's easy to see why UCR wants to build the team around him: he plays both through the seams into coverage as well as flowing and shooting around the perimeter.
All that being said, it is the Highlanders who are now on the outside looking in for the Big West tournament, while the Matadors are safe.