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COLLEGE BASKETBALL PREVIEWS : CSUN Starts on Wrong Foot With Loss of Key Newcomer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Derrick Higgins, the Cal State Northridge basketball team’s top newcomer and best defensive player, will have surgery on his left foot next week and miss at least the first four weeks of the season.

Northridge Coach Pete Cassidy got the news Thursday night, on the eve of the Matadors’ first exhibition game. Northridge will play United Arab Emirates at 7 tonight in Matador Gym.

“That’s a big loss,” Cassidy said. “He was one of our top recruits and he brought a lot of energy to the team. We were going to depend on him quite heavily in a lot of areas.”

Higgins, a 6-foot-3 junior swingman out of L.A. City College, had been bothered by an old stress fracture for most of the past month. It was aggravated a couple of weeks ago when a teammate stepped on his foot in practice.

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“It’s very frustrating,” Higgins said. “I planned to help the team a lot this year. I still feel that they’ll do good without me, but it’s disappointing that I’m not going to be out there on the floor helping.”

Northridge also will be without forward Ruben Oronoz, a returning starter, for tonight’s game. Oronoz had been out all week because of flu and an ear infection. He came to practice Thursday but did not participate.

Point guard Trenton Cross, who missed the first few weeks of practice because of injuries he suffered in a summer car accident, will start tonight.

United Arab Emirates is 0-3 on its five-game exhibition tour, losing to St. Mary’s, 111-57, on Saturday; to University of the Pacific, 74-59, on Tuesday; and to San Jose State, 74-62, on Wednesday.

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Northridge will play another home exhibition, on Tuesday night at 7 against High Five America.

The Matadors’ first regular-season home game is Dec. 2 against Cal State Fullerton.

Contributing: John Ortega.


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