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Northridge Flunks First Quiz, 86-49

Times Staff Writer

When the Cal State Northridge basketball team packed up and flew out of Los Angeles International Airport, no one knew what to expect from the season-opening tour of Division I opponents Wyoming and Colorado State.

First, Coach Pete Cassidy’s 1985-86 CSUN team was, for the most part, a new group. Seven of the Matadors’ top eight players from last year’s California Collegiate Athletic Assn. championship team were lost to graduation or academic ineligibility.

That meant plugging holes with untested transfers and inexperienced underclassmen. From there it was anyone’s guess.

Wyoming, as it turned out, supplied some answers Friday night by pounding CSUN, 86-49, before 5,998 Cowboy fans.

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“It was inexperience,” Cassidy said, after the game. “We didn’t run our offense the way we should have. We shot 36% from the floor and 44% from the foul line.”

It wasn’t as if the outcome was a big surprise. Though they didn’t outwardly concede the contest before the game, Cassidy and assistant coach Mark Felix certainly weren’t beaming with confidence going in.

Said Felix: “We hope we don’t get stomped. That’s our main goal. Some of these guys don’t know what they are in for.” Hardly the words you’d hear from, say, Adolph Rupp.

When Cassidy was told before the game that his team appeared calm and loose--telling jokes, laughing, singing Christmas carols--the coach said, simply, “Ignorance is bliss.”

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Knowledge, on the other hand, can be a little unsettling--especially when it’s crammed down your throat.

Wyoming, a bigger and more physical team than CSUN, went straight to its inside people from the start. Cowboy forward Fennis Dembo opened the game by scoring on a lob pass under the basket.

CSUN was aware of Wyoming’s tendency to go inside to the 6-4 Dembo, 6-11 sophomore Eric Leckner and 6-10 sophomore Dave Lodgins.

Knowing about it and preventing it were different matters.

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The Cowboys hit seven of their first nine shots, mostly from close range, to build a 20-6 lead in the first quarter. Wyoming’s pressure man defense made matters worse for CSUN. In the first eight minutes, the Matadors turned the ball over seven times. Twice they were called on 10-second violations.

As the game went on, it became more physical. There was fouling, and foul-mouthing. The crowd booed and threw objects on the court. The National Hockey League never had it so good.

Perhaps the low point for CSUN came with just under three minutes left in the first half. Trailing, 41-24, the Matadors’ James Carr missed three free throws inside of a minute. First, Carr threw up an air ball, then barely drew iron on his next attempt. With the crowd screaming “air ball,” the forward then threw up a brick. It wasn’t pretty.

The half ended with Wyoming ahead, 43-26.

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The second half was more of the same. Wyoming freshman forward Marco Fleming, who is from Los Angeles, punctuated the action when, with two minutes left, he drove the length of the court and slammed home a two-handed reverse jam. That upped Wyoming’s lead to 74-47.

One bright spot for CSUN was the play of transfer Paul Drecksler. He scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Paul Hobus added nine points.

Some CSUN officials had expressed concern about Laramie’s high elevation--above the athletic facility entrance hangs a sign that reads: “Welcome to the University of Wyoming, elevation 7,220 feet.”

But thin air had little to do with the outcome. Wyoming was ahead 12-4 before the Matadors were even breathing hard.

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“Our young kids were intimidated, but we settled down some in the second half,” Cassidy said. “It’s just that they had more horses than we did.”

CSUN was out-rebounded 41-27. The Matadors finished with 24 turnovers.


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