For most colleges that are at least the size of, say, Reseda High, the prospects of playing the University of Wisconsin--Oshkosh hardly conjure up a whole lot of fear and trembling.
And, predictably, when the Titans rolled into town to play Cal State Northridge on Saturday night, the Matadors rolled up the score and won, 106-92.
Strong performances by guards Paul Drecksel and Troy Dueker highlighted the CSUN victory. Drecksel scored a season-high 34 points on 11-for-13 shooting. Dueker had 21 points, including 9-for-12 free-throw shooting, many of which came midway through the second half when the outcome was still in question.
"We handled their defense well," Dueker said. "They were over playing us defensively. Before I came to CSUN, I would've bet my life that CSUN would never score 100 points in a game, but we did tonight."
And many of the Matadors' points came from the foul line. In fact, they made 48 of 54 free throws, setting a school record for both free throws attempted and free throws made.
"They grabbed, banged and hit us," CSUN Coach Pete Cassidy said. "They were good at routing us out of there."
Apparently, the referees agreed. With bodies flying all over the court, they called 62 fouls. At times, the game resembled a tag-team wrestling match.
"They like to hit," Dueker said. "By halftime, it felt like I'd already played the whole game."
After leading Wisconsin--Oshkosh at the half, 47-39, the Matadors saw their lead dwindle to four, 70-66, with just over 10 minutes left. But CSUN managed to build its lead back to eight with seven minutes left.
From that point, the Matadors were hammered on the offensive end, made their free throws with a few field goals thrown in here and there and upped their lead to 14.
Drecksel was the key for the Matadors early, scoring 21 first-half points.
"I got a lot of good shots," he said. "You could say I was motivated tonight."
Drecksel said his family was visiting from Utah for Christmas and this was the first time they'd seen him play.
CSUN forward/guard Jimmy Daniels, normally a starter, played as a reserve this game. Cassidy said Daniels had missed practices for personal reasons and that if Daniels didn't make practice, he wouldn't start.
But he played in the second half and scored 21 points down the stretch. Like the other Matadors, Daniels got a lot of his points on free throws. He made 13 of 13.
CSUN has a record of 52-4 against nonconference opponents at home since 1977. When asked about the gaudy record, specifically about playing teams like Wisconsin--Oshkosh (4-5), Cassidy said, "Hey, that was a good team out there tonight." But he couldn't hold back a smirk. The Matadors have a 7-0 record at home, they're 7-3 overall. Although the Matador offense showed new life, the defense was vulnerable, particularly along the baseline. Wisconsin-Oshkosh forward Lester Luehring hurt the Matadors underneath, scoring 24 points.
"We weren't moving on defense," Cassidy said.
As a result, the Titans shot 51%. But the Matadors hit 54%, including 67% in the second half.