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Matadors go cold against Long Beach State, Elbees drown CSUN’s four-game win streak in second half

After back-to-back wins on the road against UC Santa Barbara and CSU Bakersfield, CSUN returned in the win column, winning their last four games and looking to win their fifth...

After back-to-back wins on the road against UC Santa Barbara and CSU Bakersfield, CSUN returned in the win column, winning their last four games and looking to win their fifth game in a row against the Elbees of Long Beach State University, but got outscored 46-20 in the second half and got out-rebounded for the third straight game, and a short bench left CSUN hopeless in the second half.

Despite the cold shooting in the second half, CSUN (17-10, 8-7 Big West) jumped out to a 16-4 start against the Beach (17-9, 9-5 Big West) in the first half, with forward De’Sean Allen-Eikens leading the team in scoring with 21 points, along with five assists and two steals, while guard Dionte Bostick racked up 18 points and shot 3-5 from three. Still, no other Matadors stepped up against the visiting team to help stop the bleeding in the second half, losing 87-73 at home.

Despite the 16-4 start early in the game, Long Beach cut the lead to 20-15, following a 9-4 run that capped off a 3-pointer, two fastbreak layups and a jumper. CSUN would still respond with another run to control the game and take a 26-18 lead to maintain their lead with efforts from guard Gianni Hunt, forward Mahmoud Fofana, and Allen-Eikens. Coach Andy Newman commented after the game that it’s discouraging to get out-rebounded again and give up 52 points in the second half with their defensive struggles.

“We stopped defending and rebounding, which are the two things that have helped us get all these wins,” said Newman. “Our defensive discipline wasn’t where it should have been tonight, and because of that, we lost; if we don’t defend or rebound, we’re not gonna win games.”

As the end of the first half came to a close, the game got close and tight, with Long Beach going on another run to pull the lead within two points after missed shots and the Matadors failing to get rebounds. Long Beach guard AJ George scored the following four points, along with forward Lassina Traore, who finished with 18 points and brought the Elbees only within one point as the first half ended.

Both teams struggled shooting the three ball in the first half, as the visiting team shot just 2-13 and CSUN shot 2-12; it looked like whichever team started making their shots in the second half would win the game, because it was coming down to that as both teams were shooting poorly in the half. The last minute of the first half would end with Allen-Eikens scoring a layup to give CSUN a two-point lead after Traore tied the game with a layup off a Matadors turnover.

The second half saw a shift in momentum as Long Beach dominated early, capitalizing on CSUN’s struggle to get a shot up in six straight empty possessions, allowing Long Beach to go on a 9-0 run. The Elbees would take the lead for the first time in the game and extend their lead 44-36. A timeout was called for CSUN, and out of the timeout, Bostick responded with a jumper to pull the lead within five points.

Despite CSUN’s efforts to reduce the gap, Long Beach responded with a 13-0 run led by AJ George, and guard Jadon Jones finished the game with 22 points and six 3-pointers to give the Elbees an 18-point lead, its largest lead of the game. CSUN tried to make a quick run to reduce the gap 65-52, but the dominance from Long Beach would continue to grow, resulting in an 81-55 lead.

The Big Red failed to make any kind of run after giving up five 3-pointers, failing to defend the 3-point line or get any production from its bench, as they were outscored 25-13 from Elbee’s bench. CSUN missed forward Jasman Sangha, who didn’t play today, or guard Jordan Brinston, who hasn’t played since November 2023. So, for that reason, the bench was shorthanded, and it was all left on Allen-Eikens and Bostick, who were the only guys to show up tonight.

“Whether we are at home or on the road, this team comes down to rebounding and defending,” said Newman. “We have to get our mindset back in those two areas; we’ve already been out-rebounded in three straight games. It’s crazy that 15 games in, we were second in the nation defensively, and it’s just discouraging to see that we’re not doing that right now.”

CSUN will stay at home on Thursday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m., to take on UC Davis (15-11, 10-5 Big West), who have lost three games in a row; CSUN will look to take advantage of that and get back in the win column. The game will be hosted on ESPN+.