The Cal State Northridge Matadors are moving on to the Big West Tournament semi-finals after a wild 87-84 overtime win over Hawaii Thursday night at the Honda Center. Many anticipated that the match up between the Matadors and the Warriors would be the most competitive game of the tournament's opening day. To say they were right is an understatement as the two teams put on a show that made for one of Thursday's most exciting matches in all of college basketball.
Cal State Northridge dominated on both sides of the court for much of the first half. On offense, the Matadors could not miss, driving the ball into the paint relentlessly and shooting 60% from the field in half number one. On defense they were a brick wall, preventing Hawaii from getting into the paint and forcing the Warriors to take bad shots. Everything seemed to be going Northridge's way as they built up a comfortable lead midway through the half. Then the switch turned and Hawaii caught fire offensively thanks in large part to senior forward Christian Standhardinger who finished the game with 28 points. The late run allowed Hawaii to cut the 16-point Northridge lead down to six by halftime as the Matadors lead 42-36.
The Warriors kept the momentum for much of the second half. Their excellent shooting combined with the fact that Northridge could not buy a basket against their tough 1-2-2 zone defense allowed them to jump out to a double digit lead and force the Matadors against the wall. It seemed Hawaii was poised to complete a historic comeback until the Matadors suddenly caught fire late in the half and cut the deficit down to 6 after a 10-1 run. The comeback was lead by senior guard Josh Greene who hit a trio of three-point shots down the stretch to put Northridge back in the game. However, it was his three-point shot that tied the game at 74 with 11.8 seconds left to play that cemented his name in Matador lore. The shot completed a 13-point comeback for Northridge and enabled them to force overtime.
In the overtime the two teams matched each other basket for basket until finally Hawaii took an 84-83 lead with under 30 seconds to play. Things seemed grim from the Matadors until they forced Warriors guard Keith Shamburger out of bounds and gave themselves possession of the ball with 17.7 seconds left to go. Junior forward Stephen Maxwell made the most of the opportunity, converting a contested layup to give Northridge a one-point lead with only seconds left to play. A costly moving screen foul by Hawaii forward Isaac Fotu allowed the Matadors to build their lead and seal the 87-84 victory.
The win pushes Northridge across to the semi-finals of the Big West Tournament for the first time since 2011. The loss was devastating for Hawaii who had a successful regular season after leading the Big West in scoring but will now have to return home empty handed. The Matadors now look forward to some much needed rest as they prepare for their semi-finals match up against Cal State Long Beach.
Complete scores for the 2014 Big West Tournament can be found here.