Heading into Big West Conference play, Cal State Northridge has shown it will not be a basketball team to pass over this season. Its pre-conference games were nearly split as CSUN went just over .500 with a record of 8-7, ranking fourth in the Big West. This place for CSUN is quite the statement compared to the Big West preseason polls that predicted the Matadors to finish in seventh place.
At home, the Matadors have prospered with a record of 5-1 this season, beating some respectable teams along the way and giving respect to their Matadome and Head Coach Reggie Theus, a former NBA coach.
On the road however, the Matador’s efforts have fallen short going just 1-6 in their contests. CSUN, while dangerous at home, needs to perfect its game on the road to compete in the Big West.
Northridge so far this season has been an offensive-oriented team. The team ranks fourth in the conference in points scored, averaging 75.3 per game. This high scoring offense has come off the back of this team’s great shooting ability. The Matadors rank second in the conference in three-point field goal percentage and rank first in free throw percentage. On days where these shots may not be falling, CSUN also has the ability to make up for it on second chance points as it ranks second in offensive rebounds.
While the team’s attack may be sharp in the first 16 games, the defense has sagged off, making it difficult to close teams out and dominate their matchups. The Matadors rank eighth in points allowed this season, giving up an average of 75 a game. With their points scored and points allowed averages being so close, it is easy to see why this team holds a .533 record and an overall average point margin of just 4.3.
A bright star on the team so far has been guard/forward Stephan Hicks who has scored double-digit points in every contest with the exception of CSUN’s loss to USC early in the season. Hicks leads his team averaging 17.6 points per game. The junior has a substantial field goal percentage of .553 and also contributes on the boards averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, ranking second on the team.
Much of this team’s success can also be accredited to their other junior star, forward Stephen Maxwell. Maxwell leads his team in rebounds, grabbing 8.6 per game, and field goal percentage with a .591 mark. Where the statistics do not tell the story is Maxwell’s defense. He is a huge presence in the paint for this Matador team and can essentially stop any players playing the three spot and up with his quickness, size and athleticism.
Northridge begins Big West play Thursday against UC Davis.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 8, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.