Toros Challenge for Top Spot by Beating Northridge, 54-51
All season long, Cal State Dominguez Hills Coach Dave Yanai has said that the key to the Toro offense has been the Toro defense.
At no time that more clear than Saturday night against visiting Cal State Northridge.
For the second straight California Collegiate Athletic Assn. game, Dominguez Hills shot less than 36 percent from the field, but thanks to its stifling defense, the school no one even considered a contender when the year began is now poised to challenge for the top spot in the conference.
Its 54-51 victory Saturday night upped Dominguez Hills’ record to 4-1 in the conference (12-6 overall). It was the team’s seventh win in its last eight starts, giving it impetus for next week’s road trip to Bakersfield and San Luis Obispo.
Riverside, which beat the Toros, 59-58, 10 days ago, is 5-0 in the conference, but its victory over Bakersfield on Saturday night handed second place solely to the Toros.
The victory Saturday night was the fifth consecutive time Dominguez Hills has held its opponent shy of 60 points. And the team needed every bit of that defense to help its offense get through another major slump.
“We had been shooting so well lately, even our three-point shots, I guess the kids are coming back down to earth,” Yanai said.
The coach said he sensed that his team was tiring, not getting the elevation on shots that he would like, in Thursday’s 55-52 double-overtime win at Cal State Los Angeles. So he shortened practice Friday, and the team took more shooting practice.
That didn’t seem to help much Saturday--a thought Yanai says he will work on.
“I guess we’ve got to freshen up our legs a bit,” he said. “Normally we shoot well here.”
Kevin Shaw, once a reserve who has worked his way up to a starting role, keyed the Toro defense late in the game. His steal and basket with 4:50 left gave Dominguez Hills the lead for good, 52-51. Yanai called it the play of the game.
“Some guys have so much talent and they don’t do so much with it, and then you see Kevin out there surface like that, get the most out of his God-given ability, and it is just . . . so great,” he said.
In the first half, the Toros hit just seven of 22 shots. Anthony Blackmon led the way: The 6-foot, 7-inch senior made just two of 10 attempts.
But Northridge fared little better. Without starter Todd Bowser, who is injured, the Matadors looked confused offensively. They missed their first seven field goal attempts, including a pair of lay-ups.
Derrick Gathers, brother of Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers, broke the drought with a three-point shot, but not before 9 1/2 minutes of the first half was gone.
In that time, Dominguez Hills countered by hitting only two of 11 field goals.
Still, the Toros marched to a 9-0 lead with 14:53 left in the half on baskets by Segaro Bozart, Robert Barksdale and Blackmon.
Gathers followed his three-point shot with a two-point bucket off a steal and assist from guard Darren Matsubara that tied the game at 9 with 9:43 left. Thirty seconds later, forward Sandy Brown gave the Matadors their first lead, 11-9, when he two free throws. In fact, Northridge utilized the foul-shot bonus to make nine of 10 one-and-one attempts.
Fouls have played a part in Dominguez Hills’ recent offensive struggles. Thursday night at Cal State Los Angeles, it was Blackmon who got into foul trouble early. Saturday night it was Derrick Clark’s turn. The senior guard from Detroit picked up his third foul with only 4:23 gone in the game.
Another factor seemed to be the Toros’ inability read the changing defenses used by Northridge. Without Bowser, it figured that Northridge would surrender some of the advantage it might have had in the low post. But Dominguez Hills found it difficult in the first 10 minutes of the game to get the ball inside.
Yanai realized the problems, however, and shouted to the Toros to “go inside, fellows.” Moments later, Dominguez Hills did just that: Barksdale made a nice pass to Dell’Amico for a lay-in.
“We tried to get inside, tried to get something off the break,” Yanai said.
Dominguez Hills grabbed the lead for only the second time on a basket by Clark off a pass from Barksdale with a minute gone in the second half.
But back came Northridge. A pair of baskets by Alan Fraser, a three-pointer by Gathers and a basket by Jemarl Baker made it 36-31 with under 15 minutes to play.
Clark followed with a basket for the Toros, but Gathers retaliated for two at 13:40.
Blackmon led the Toros back. He scored five points in the next 2 1/2 minutes. A basket by Dell’Amico knotted the score at 41, and then Dominguez Hills ran off five unanswered points to take a 46-41 advantage with 8:26 to go.
Northridge countered with eight straight points of its own in the next three minutes to regain the lead. Matsubara missed a three-point attempt from the top with 2:29, Blackmon rebounded and Yanai signaled quickly for a time-out.
The Toros spread the offense out, but Blackmon missed a 6-foot jumper with 2 minutes left. Clark grabbed the rebound, attempted to force a shot and, surrounded by three Matadors, pushed the ball off to Bozart. Barksdale ran the shot clock down to six seconds, then misfired from inside the three-point line and the Matadors grabbed the rebound.
Seconds later, the Toros had the ball back. As Gathers crossed halfcourt, Dell’Amico sneaked up from behind and knocked the ball to Barksdale. Dominguez ran the clock down to 44 seconds left in the game and called time out.
Blackmon missed a 17-footer from the right corner, however, with 29 seconds to go and Fraser rebounded.
Northridge called time out, but on the ensuing in-bounds Fraser could not get the ball in and the Matadors were forced to call a time-out. This time Becker tried to in-bound the ball. When he couldn’t find someone to get the ball to, he attempted to call another time-out, but he ran out of time and Dominguez Hills was in control. Barksdale added a driving lay-up with 20 seconds to go to make the score 54-51.
Gathers got off a three-point shot with 7 seconds left, but it bounced high off the rim and both Blackmon and Fraser came down with the ball with the possession arrow in favor of the Toros.
Barksdale added two free throws with three seconds left.
Northridge 63, Dominguez Hills 51-The 16th-ranked Lady Matadors (15-4, 3-1), upset Thursday night at home by Chapman College had little problem with the Lady Toros (5-11,1-3) Saturday in the CCAA match. Senior center Kathy Goggin led the Lady Toros with 16 points. Julie Scott had 12 and Brigitte Frazier had 10.