Braswell's Heart Skips a Few Beats

Even in a breather, the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team found a way to make Coach Bobby Braswell hold his breath.

The Matadors were well on their way to a 75-58 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Monday night when forward Keith Higgins gave everyone at Northridge a scare.

Early in the second half, Higgins fell hard after being fouled while driving to the basket. After landing, he began writhing on the court and clutching his left hand.

"I was very nervous," Braswell said. "Right now, Keith is running our team."

Not to worry. Higgins, who had the wind knocked out and bruised his thumb, returned to the game after a few minutes and finished with 12 points, including four dunks. He has nine dunks in the Matadors' last two games.

"He's taking a leadership role," Braswell said of Higgins. "I think Keith and [point guard] Lucky Grundy have had the two biggest impacts on the basketball team."

NCAA 1, Waves 0: It appears Pepperdine has lost its battle to restore the eligibility of Kelvin Gibbs, a freshman basketball player.

Gibbs, a 6-foot-7 forward who was contending for a starting spot before the season, was declared academically ineligible by the NCAA, which ruled that an English class Gibbs took at Cerritos College was not the equivalent of a required course he skipped at Bellflower High.

Pepperdine recently lost an appeal, and Coach Lorenzo Romar says it's unlikely another appeal to the NCAA can prevent Gibbs from sitting out the rest of the season and losing a year of eligibility.

"I'm not too optimistic about getting a positive response in his favor," Romar said. "We might be able to appeal and get his year [of eligibility] back, but at this point, it looks like he will have to sit out and lose a year of eligibility, which is a great tragedy for a good kid like that."

Halted: As a senior at Nordhoff High, Will Bernaldo bounced back from a bout of mononucleosis to finish seventh in the West regional cross-country championships. The Cal State Northridge freshman might have an even bigger health obstacle to overcome in the months ahead, however, after being diagnosed with hepatitis last month.

Bernaldo was the Matadors' No. 4 runner in the NCAA District VIII cross-country championships on Nov. 23, but after suffering seizures six days later, he was taken to the hospital where tests revealed that Bernaldo had hepatitis.

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