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CSUN BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK : Persian Gulf Conflict of Personal Concern to Northridge’s Cassidy

Coach Pete Cassidy has more to worry about these days than the Cal State Northridge basketball team.

Cassidy’s eldest son, Kevin, 23, is stationed in the Persian Gulf with the Air Medical Evacuation Service.

As war approached, Cassidy admitted his concern but said he is dealing with it privately. It is a situation he has not mentioned to his players.

“You just deal with it the best you can,” Cassidy said.

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(Kevin) is doing what he has to do and he has our support all the way. Naturally, you worry, but you can’t control it. You have to go on as best you can. It is one facet of your life. You have to cope like thousands of other parents.”

Kevin Cassidy, who played football and baseball at St. Genevieve High, is a reserve. He served three months initially, returned home for three weeks, then went back Jan. 7.

No midnight madness: Cassidy had every right to be giddy Monday night after his team ended its eight-game road losing streak with a 109-82 victory over Northeastern Illinois, but he chose not to rest on those laurels.

“This win is only good until midnight,” Cassidy said at a press conference at 9:45 p.m. CST. “Then we have to look to Loyola. The team is excited and I am excited, but I want them in their rooms at 11 and lights out at midnight. They better start thinking about Loyola at midnight.”

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The Matadors, perhaps heeding their coach’s advice, upset Loyola, 90-76, on Tuesday.

Mr. Timex: Andre Chevalier, Northridge’s diminutive point guard, takes a licking when he drives through the land of the giants. But “Andre the Giant,” as the 5-foot-8 Chevalier is called by his teammates, keeps on ticking.

Still, the Cleveland High graduate has a breaking point, and he reached it Tuesday night. While in close proximity to the Loyola bench, one off-the-court player grabbed at Chevalier and another slapped at the ball he was dribbling.

Chevalier complained to officials but to no avail.

Practice makes perfect: Loyola players drew the ire of Northridge forward Shelton Boykin by sprinting out of the gymnasium without shaking hands with CSUN players after the Matador victory Tuesday.

“They didn’t take it well,” Boykin said of the Ramblers. “We take losses well, as well as you can take them.”

Second wind: Cassidy was concerned about the conditioning level of center Percy Fisher, who was forced to work out on his own several times during the first semester when the team was on the road and he was academically ineligible. So far, however, Fisher has responded well to a steady increase in playing time.

He scored one point in an eight-minute debut against Canisius, four points in 10 minutes against Weber State, 13 points in 15 minutes against Northeastern Illinois and a career-high 17 points in 19 minutes against Loyola.

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“Games, to me, are better than practice,” Fisher said. “I can go longer because I’m so hyped up.”

Playing percentages: CSUN junior Keith Gibbs has hit 75% of his shots in the past two games after connecting on only 20.8% of his attempts in CSUN’s three previous games.

After scoring 21 points and sharing game-high honors with teammate Kyle Kerlegan in a win over Northeastern Illinois, Gibbs said: “I don’t think Kyle and I have ever been on, on the same night. Come to think of it, that is the first time I’ve been on.”

Gibbs’ improved percentage is due largely to shot selection--six of his 12 baskets in the past two games were dunks.

Gibbs also missed a dunk attempt against Loyola, which prompted the standing-room-only crowd of 2,059 to jeer while bringing back a now-familiar Cassidy refrain: “I don’t like flamboyance and stylin’ for the sake of flamboyance and stylin.’ ”

United they hug: Unlike many teams, Northridge does not demonstrate team unity with public displays of affection, such as foul line huddles with arms linked. But after its triumph over Loyola, the entire Matador team spontaneously gathered at the tip-off circle for a victory hug.

Quotebook: Tom Lake, Northeastern Illinois sports information director, on the dim lighting in Northeastern’s physical education complex: “No matter how well our opponents play here, they can never ‘shoot the lights out.’ ”

Statwatch: Northridge shot 39.2% in losing three of its first four games after the holiday break. Since then, the Matadors are shooting 58.4% and are 2-0. . . .

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A 64% free-throw shooting team, CSUN made 11 of 14 (79%) foul shots in the final four minutes against Loyola. . . .

Northridge has won its past two games despite maintaining an average of 21.5 turnovers a game. . . .

Last week, The Times ran a graphic showing that Northridge’s scoring average of 80.7 points a game in its first eight games had fallen to 64.5 points in its past four games and that the Matadors were giving up 68.7 points in their past four after surrendering an average of 100 points in their first eight.

Since then, Northridge has reversed the trend. The Matadors have averaged 99.5 points in wins over Northeastern Illinois and Loyola while allowing an average of 79.

CSUN’s three-point trend stayed true to course, however. After averaging 29.2 three-point attempts in the first eight games, the Matadors dropped to 18.1 in the next four games and now are at 17.5 in the past six.


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