GAME NOTES: The UC Riverside Highlanders will be out to stop a five-game losing streak on Saturday night, as they host the Cal State Northridge Matadors in a Big West Conference showdown at SRC Arena.
UC Riverside is used to stringing losses together. The Highlanders are currently at the bottom of the Big West standings (3-10), with their overall record (8-19) not particularly impressive either. They play their final home game of the season next against UC Davis, a team they trail by a game in the conference standings.
Cal State Northridge can't seem to get going in either direction of late, or this season for that matter. The Matadors have traded wins and losses in their last six games, as they hover right around .500 both overall (14-16) and in conference (6-8). They wrap up the regular season next Thursday against Long Beach State.
Josh Greene hit a clutch 3-poiner in overtime to push Cal State Northridge to a 93-89 victory over UC Riverside earlier this season. The Matadors have won the last two meetings and lead the all-time series, 38-32.
The Matadors were locked in another overtime contest last time out, but they fell in that one, 82-81, to Cal State Fullerton. Stephen Maxwell finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds to pace Northridge, which connected on 51.9 percent of its total shots.
Putting points on the board has come rather easily for the Matadors this season, as they are second in the Big West in scoring (75.5 ppg), while shooting a respectable 45.3 percent from the floor. However, they have not been able to put up enough resistance at the other end, allowing 76.7 ppg on 45.5 percent shooting. Maxwell (17.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg) is one of the most productive frontcourt players in the league, as he is among the top three players in both scoring and rebounding. Stephan Hicks (16.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Josh Greene (15.3 ppg) are also important contributors.
UC Riverside tangled with Cal Poly in its last contest, in which it lost a 69-64 decision. The Highlanders outscored the Mustangs, 32-10, in the paint, but could not overcome scoring deficits from beyond the arc (24-12) and at the free-throw line (27-16).
The Highlanders are not nearly the same type of offensive team as Cal State Northridge. They are only putting in 67.5 ppg on 43.3 percent shooting, ranking in the bottom half of the Big West in each category. Taylor Johnson (12.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.5 bpg) stuffs the stat sheet from his spot along the front line, providing plenty of scoring and ranking among the top-three players in the conference in both rebounds and blocks. Chris Patton (12.9 ppg) leads the team in scoring by a slim margin, and Sam Finley (11.9 ppg) is a streaky shooter who can get hot at times, such as on Thursday when he scored 16 points against Cal Poly.
On paper, Northridge's offensive dominance should weight heavily in its favor for this contest. However, the Matadors have been miserable away from home this season (2-13), and that could be their undoing once again.
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