Basketball coach Pete Cassidy of Cal State Northridge strode to the podium in the postgame press conference at the Brigham Young tournament and suddenly felt sort of teacher-like.
"Today," he said as if talking to a class, "we are going to talk about defense."
A good example of how not to play defense had just been demonstrated by his team.
Northridge hung with BYU for nearly a half, but then too many fouls and bad defense caught up with the Matadors and they lost, 99-74, Friday night in front of 14,938 in the Marriott Center.
The relatively small and frail Matadors, forced to contend with BYU's seemingly endless supply of big meaty guys inside, were called time after time for reaching fouls.
"We were reaching and not moving our feet," said Northridge forward Eric Gray, one of two Matadors who fouled out. "It's stuff you can avoid if you work a little harder."
As a result, the Cougars won the game at the free-throw line. BYU hit 34 of 44 from the line, while Northridge made only 12 of 19. The Matadors were outscored only 65-62 from the floor.
Northridge (1-4) will play Stephen F. Austin (3-2) in the tournament consolation game at 4:30 p.m. PST today. The Lumberjacks lost, 68-58, to Louisiana Tech earlier Friday.
Reserve forward Josh Willis, who played more because he was one of the few Matadors not in foul trouble, led the team with 15 points.
Kenneth Roberts scored 24 and Bryon Ruffner added 21 for the Cougars (3-2), who impressed Cassidy even more in person than on tape.
"BYU is the best team we have played all year," he said.
Still, the Matadors played the Cougars nearly even in the first half, despite a sizable disadvantage at the free-throw line. The Matadors shot only four free throws in the first half, compared with 17 for BYU.
But Northridge shot well in the first half--54.8%, including 40% from three-point range--and had several small leads.
Still, the Cougars led by as many as seven in the first half. BYU took a five-point lead at halftime after Northridge's Gerald Rhoden was called for a charge on the Matadors' final possession and the Cougars' Todd Christensen hit an eight-foot jump shot just before the buzzer.
Rhoden's charge was his third foul. Two Northridge starters, Gray and point guard Trenton Cross, also were called for three fouls in the first half. In the first seven minutes of the second half, Gray, Cross and Ruben Oronoz each had four fouls.
From there, Northridge's defense steadily deteriorated. Almost every time down the court, the Cougars seemed to pop someone open off a screen, setting up an easy layup, and ballooning their lead into the 20s.
BYU made 64.3% of its field-goal attempts in the second half, while Northridge went the other way, shooting only 34.4% to finish the game at 44.4%.
The disturbing problem for the Matadors is how they seem to play well in the first half, then fall apart in the second.
"We just folded in the second half," Oronoz said. "That's all."