The Brick Breeden Fieldhouse crowd of 5,888 not only got their free hamburgers Saturday night when Montana State went over the 90-point mark, they saw their Bobcats adhere to the trend of all teams that have played host to Cal State Northridge this season: They surpassed the century mark.
In the 104-78 loss, Northridge (1-5) trailed by 15 points within the first nine minutes.
“Everybody is really frustrated right now,” CSUN junior Keith Gibbs said. “One and five is not the record we predicted.
“It is going to take a lot to regroup but even though we’re losing, and whoever reads this damn thing is not going to believe it, but I still think we can compete with these people. At times, we show signs that we can and at times, we don’t.”
Montana State (4-3) set the tone immediately. It beat the Matadors’ press with long baseball passes after baskets to score 12 of its first 22 points on layups. That included three in a row during a 49-second span that increased the lead to 22-12 with 13 minutes 15 seconds left in the first half.
“They did an excellent job of releasing,” CSUN Coach Pete Cassidy said. “We knew they were a breaking team, but we didn’t see it to that extent on film.”
“It was especially tough for us big guys to get back (on the break),” CSUN center Todd Bowser said. “We’re responsible for that.”
The slide continued over the next six minutes as the Bobcats outscored CSUN, 15-6. Then after a three-point basket by Northridge’s Kyle Kerlegan they really let the hammer down with a 12-0 run. Between Kerlegan’s basket and an 18-foot jumper by Andre Chevalier, CSUN went scoreless for 4:51 and Montana State increased its margin to 49-21.
The Matadors gained a measure of momentum before intermission, however, with eight consecutive points in the last 1:39 to trail, 53-33, at the half.
Montana State regrouped again early in the second half, but with 10 minutes left in the game the Matadors put together a 14-4 run that pulled them within 14 points at 80-66.
“We took away the easy hoop and we had a quick combination on the floor at that time,” Cassidy said.
Montana State called a timeout at that juncture and answered with eight straight points, including a three-point play by Allen Lightfoot and a three-point shot by Johnny Mack to push the lead to 22 points.
When Todd Dickson hit two free throws a moment later, each member of the crowd had its hamburger.
A few minutes later, a technical and intentional foul whistled against CSUN’s Shelton Boykin enabled the Bobcats to become the fifth team to score more than 100 points on the Matador defense.
Montana State scored a six-point play on Boykin’s indiscretion. Steve Kunst hit the basket and Greg Powell sank four consecutive free throws.
It was the second technical of the game assessed against Boykin, who was ejected.
“I’m quite upset about that,” Cassidy said.
When asked if Boykin would lose his starting position for the Cal State Long Beach game on Wednesday, Cassidy said: “What I will do will stay inside the team context.”
On the bright side for Northridge, the 6-foot-5 Gibbs moved to small forward and scored a career-high 19 points and pulled down six rebounds.
“I’ve been frustrated with myself,” Gibbs said. “I had a long talk with Coach (Cassidy).’
“I think we’re a better team with Keith at the three-spot,” Bowser said. “It opens up a lot more things as far as him going to the basket and dishing (passing off).”
Gibbs was able to stay over there because Chevalier, a freshman from Cleveland High, played a season-high 30 minutes and scored nine points, made six steals and six assists, but also seven turnovers.
Brian Kilian also played his best game as a Matador with career highs in points (9) and rebounds (7) in just 14 minutes.
Montana State’s Mack scored 29 points and backcourt mate Johnny Perkins had 24, including 19 in the first half.
The Bobcats shot 50% and scored 40 points on layups. CSUN shot 41% and only 54% from the free-throw line.
NOTES: Chevalier and San Jose State transfer Sean Davis were rewarded for their hustle in the Montana game with starts at point guard and small forward. Davis started in place of David Keeter, who had averaged a team-leading 15.5 points a game until this trip.