CSUN falls to Cal State Bakersfield in Big West Tournament opener

The Cal State Northridge men’s basketball team will have to wait another year to end its Big West Tournament drought.

The ninth-seeded Matadors couldn’t fight off eighth-seeded Cal State Bakersfield in a first-round round game and lost, 51-47, on Tuesday night at Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada.

CSUN hasn’t won a conference tournament game since advancing to the championship game in 2014.

“We’re building something. It’s not going to happen overnight. This is a very disappointed locker room because we don’t concern ourselves with everybody else’s expectations,” Northridge coach Trent Johnson said. “Obviously, we were picked to finish last in this league. … We’re not in the cellar, you have to tip your cap to their ability to come out every night and compete.”

The Roadrunners (11-21) ended the season for the Matadors for the second straight year and advance to face top-seeded UC Irvine (22-10) in a quarterfinal game on Thursday at noon.

The final blow for CSUN came when Atin Wright missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 13 seconds left and then crumpled to the court after his follow-through.

Wright, who came in averaging 17 points per game but finished with 10 on 3-for-17 shooting, had to be helped off the floor and sat straight-legged on the bench as the Matadors were unable to rally.

Northridge retained possession after Wright’s miss, but Cam Slaymaker missed a jump shot with six seconds remaining, the Roadrunners rebounded the ball and made a final free throw to seal the win.

“We’ve got some guys that were injured and that sort of took its toll, but you need to tip your cap to (Bakersfield),” Johnson said. “They competed at a high level and they made the necessary plays down the stretch to win the game.”

De’Sean Allen-Eikens scored 15 points to lead CSUN, which shot 31.8% from the floor and 3 for 16 from 3-point range.

Northridge didn’t win a game away from home all season.

The Matadors didn’t lead against Bakersfield until scoring the final five points of the first half to take a 26-24 advantage into the break.

Wright sank a 3-pointer in transition to give Northridge a 31-27 lead, but the Matadors went the next 7:41 without a field goal and Bakersfield was able to stay close, despite shooting just 32.1% for the night.

“I thought our zone helped us,” Johnson said. “The emphasis on the zone defense was to play inside out, try to get them out of rhythm, because when we went man, they can go boom, boom, boom and get in the lane, and they’re physical and they’re athletic and they can play over the top of you.”

Neither team converted a field goal over the final 3:20 of the game.

“We’ve shown a tendency to struggle when we’re behind and I thought, for the most part, we kept our composure,” Johnson said. “Our zone did a really good job in terms of limiting their easy baskets, so to speak, but then they made a run on us, I thought we did a good job of keeping our poise and executing.”

The ninth-seeded Bakersfield women’s team beat eighth-seeded CSUN in a first-round game earlier Tuesday.

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