Twenty-four hours after ending its eight-game road losing streak, the Cal State Northridge men’s basketball team withstood a Loyola rally and hung on for a 90-76 win Tuesday.
“We gained from the experience on the road against New Mexico State and Colorado and Montana, in the early going when our young guys were getting spanked,” Northridge Coach Pete Cassidy said.
The Matadors’ mettle was tested with 4 minutes 59 seconds left when Loyola pulled within four, 67-63.
CSUN’s Kyle Kerlegan stopped the 9-0 run--all the points coming from Loyola’s All-American candidate Keith Gailes--with a three-point basket off a beautiful cross-court pass from Shelton Boykin.
“We withstood that, we didn’t crack and then Kyle gave us the three that gave us a buffer,” Cassidy said.
Ironically, Kerlegan’s shot was CSUN’s only outside shot of the half.
“I guess that says something about shot selection,” said Cassidy whose squad started the trip with a 39.2% field-goal percentage, then shot 57% in a 109-82 thrashing of Northeastern Illinois on Monday before hitting 60% of its shots against Loyola.
Gailes sank four more foul shots, but Northridge (5-9) countered with two free throws by Boykin, a layup by Kerlegan and two free throws by Percy Fisher to push the lead back to nine, at 76-67, with 2:58 left.
Freshman point guard Andre Chevalier led the way with a career-high 20 points and a career-high eight assists.
Chevalier also picked up another assist that won’t show in the box score.
Chevalier stuck his 5-foot-8, 140-pound frame between the 6-5, 220-pound Boykin and a referee and told his teammate to stop complaining about a call, saving a technical foul with 2:24 left.
“It was too close for us to get a T (technical) at that time,” Chevalier said.
“Once Shelton gets going, he doesn’t know when to stop. My role is to calm him down. I know he won’t mess with me, he is my teammate and my friend.”
Percy Fisher also stood out for CSUN. In his fourth game since gaining his academic eligibility, the 6-7 sophomore center came through with a career-high 17 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes of play.
“They played behind him and allowed him to get the ball,” Cassidy said.
Fisher said his confidence has grown because his teammates have faith in him.
“They are giving me the ball,” he said. “They never doubted me and the coaches never doubted me. Given the chance, I knew I could do it.”
Boykin and Keith Gibbs enabled CSUN to outrebound the Ramblers, 41-27, grabbing 11 rebounds each. That marked a career-high for Gibbs, who also tallied 14 points.
Reserve Sean Davis made the biggest contribution defensively. Along with Gibbs and David Keeter, Davis was given the unenviable task of guarding Gailes, who finished with a game-high 27 points.
“The guy that did the best job was Davis,” Cassidy said. “Not to take anything away from Keeter and Gibbs, but they don’t have the body to handle a guy with a tremendous body like that.”
Although Gailes scored the first 12 points for the Ramblers (5-8), CSUN also started off well with baskets by Gibbs, Fisher and Chevalier, who discovered he could drive the lane immediately, for a 13-12 advantage.
CSUN cooled a bit and Loyola led by as many as six points midway through the first half.
But just as the Ramblers were getting momentum following a technical foul against Gibbs, Chevalier caused a steal and after a Kerlegan miss, Boykin grabbed the rebound and fed Chevalier for a 12-foot jumper that stemmed the tide.
Over the next 4:35, CSUN outscored Loyola, 17-6, to lead, 41-33, at halftime.