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COLLEGE BASKETBALL 1995-96 : Northridge’s Cassidy Faces More Challenges

TIMES STAFF WRITER

This is Pete Cassidy’s theme for his 25th season of coaching basketball at Cal State Northridge:

“Victory doesn’t always go to the biggest, the strongest, the quickest or the fastest.”

Good thing, because the Matadors are none of those.

“Every season has its challenges, but we are not without talent,” said Cassidy, whose team was 8-20 last season. “Just because we aren’t big or super quick, it doesn’t mean we can’t play basketball.”

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Besides their obvious physical shortcomings--no one on the roster is taller than 6 feet 7--the Matadors also have an injury problem. Junior swingman Derrick Higgins, the top newcomer and best defensive player, will sit out at least the first four weeks of the season because of a broken left foot.

Higgins was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday and may sit out the entire season.

Without him, the Matadors will have to use Robert Hill, last season’s starting point guard, at shooting guard. Sophomore Trenton Cross will be the point guard.

The rest of the starters are anyone’s guess.

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“I wish I could tell you who my starting five are,” Cassidy said.

Cross, a 5-11 former all-city player from Reseda High, is probably the Matadors’ best player. After a slow adjustment to college basketball last season, he averaged 9.9 points in the last 11 games.

But his development was slowed when he missed the first few weeks of fall practice while recovering from injuries he suffered in a summer car accident. He is still trying to play himself into shape.

The minutes Cross misses at point guard will be taken by Hill or sophomore Lucky Grundy.

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Forward Eric Gray, a 6-6 senior who averaged 8.6 points last season, most among returning players, and Ruben Oronoz, a 6-7 senior forward who averaged 8.2 points, will be asked to contribute as outside shooters and inside defenders.

Northridge’s other key frontcourt players are new: 6-6 junior Damion Morbley, a transfer from Orange Coast College; 6-7 junior Kevin Taylor, from Sacramento City College, and 6-7 junior Matt Andrews, from Cuesta College.

They will be responsible for keeping taller centers--and almost every team will have one--from ripping the Matadors to shreds around the basket.

“We’re going to struggle with teams that have very good inside games, that’s evident,” Cassidy said. “We’re going to have to do something to stop people from pounding the ball inside on us.”

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Even so, a championship is not out of the question because the Matadors are in the four-team American West Conference for one more season before moving to the tougher Big Sky, and there is no clear-cut favorite.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

CS Northridge Facts and Figures

ROSTER

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No Player Pos Hgt Wgt Yr 50 Matt Andrews F-C 6-7 235 Jr. 33 Trenton Cross G 5-11 175 So. 40 Eric Gray F 6-6 200 Sr. 21 Lucky Grundy G 5-10 160 So. 20 Derrick Higgins G-F 6-3 185 Jr 12 Robert Hill G 6-1 200 Sr. 22 Walter Jefferson G 6-0 180 Fr. 30 Damion Morbley F 6-6 210 Jr. 44 Ruben Oronoz F 6-7 220 Sr. 24 Gerald Rhoden G-F 6-5 215 Jr. 41 Tom Samson F 6-7 220 Jr. 34 Rod Stinson F 6-5 225 Jr. 42 Josh Willis F-G 6-6 190 Jr.

No Comment 50 JC transfer 33 Averaged 5.4 points 40 Averaged 13 points in conference 21 Saw limited action 20 Currently sidelined because of injury 12 Led team in assists (48) 22 Imperial Valley prep 30 JC transfer 44 Averaged 9.1 points 24 JC transfer 41 Averaged 10 minutes 34 JC transfer 42 Played one game

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SCHEDULE

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Date Opponent Time Nov. 25 at Nevada Las Vegas 7:35 Nov. 28 at Fresno State 7:30 Dec. 2 CS Fullerton 7:00 Dec. 5 Pepperdine 7:00 Dec. 8 BYU in Cougar Classic 6:00 Dec. 9 Cougar Classic TBA Dec. 16 Northeastern Illinois 7:00 Dec. 19 at UC Santa Barbara 7:30 Dec. 22 at St. Mary’s 7:30 Dec. 29 Samford in Tenn. Chattanooga tournament 6:00 Dec. 30 Tenn. Chattanooga tournament TBA Jan. 2 Colorado School of Mines 7:00 Jan. 6 Colorado Springs 7:30 Jan. 9 Grand Canyon 7:00 Jan. 15 at Oral Roberts 5:05 Jan. 17 at Oklahoma State 5:35 Jan. 24 U. San Diego 7:00 Jan. 27 at Southern Utah 6:30 Jan. 30 at San Diego State 7:00 Feb. 1 CS Sacramento 7:00 Feb. 6 at Cal Poly SLO 7:00 Feb. 10 Oral Roberts 7:30 Feb. 14 Southern Utah 7:30 Feb. 17 Cal Poly SLO 7:30 Feb. 24 at CS Sacramento 7:00 Feb. 27 Loyola Marymount 7:00 Mar. 1-2 American West Tournament at CS Northridge TBA

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All times Pacific and p.m. unless noted.

Coach: Pete Cassidy, 25th season at school. (327-317)

1994-95 Team Record: 4-2 American West, 8-20 overall.


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